Marc-Andre ter Stegen has long been breathing down Manuel Neuer's neck to become Germany's number one. But the rivalry between the two has turned bitter, with Bayern President Uli Hoeness making an unwanted intervention.
The debate over who should be Germany's No. 1 goalkeeper — Bayern Munich's Manuel Neuer or Barcelona's Marc-Andre ter Stegen — is the hot debate around the Nationalmannschaft these days.
The post-World Cup period remains a turbulent one for Germany, with Joachim Löw's attempts to usher in a new era for the four-time world champions stuttering again with the recent home defeat by the Netherlands.
While Thomas Müller, Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng were made to pay for Germany's failure with their international careers, Neuer, the current Germany captain, remains a Löw favorite, with ter Stegen failing to dislodge Neuer in the national team, despite delivering the best performances of his career for Barcelona.
Neuer and ter Stegen have become engaged in a war of words in the early weeks of the new season and now outgoing Bayern President Uli Hoeness has leapt to Neuer's defense. How did we reach this point?
Neuer vs. ter Stegen: A brief history
May/June 2018 — ter Stegen plays in Germany's World Cup warm-up games in place of the injured Neuer.
June 17, 2018 — Neuer returns to the Germany starting lineup for their opening game of the World Cup against Mexico, which Germany lose 1-0. Ter Stegen watches on from the bench
March 2019 — Following relegation to Nations League League B, Germany coach Löw announces that Müller, Boateng and Hummels will no longer play. Neuer avoids the cut and ter Stegen continues to be Germany's second-choice goalkeeper.
March 2019 — Löw promises ter Stegen game time, but his only appearance is the second 45 minutes in a friendly against Serbia, during which ter Stegen keeps a clean sheet.
Ter Stegen returned to Germany with Barcelona in September 2019, saving a penalty and making some key saves.
September 2019 — Neuer concedes four in a crucial Euro 2020 qualifier against the Netherlands but keeps his place for the game against Northern Ireland in Belfast three days later.
September 2019 — ter Stegen tells Spanish media that being left out again for Germany was a "heavy blow". Neuer replies after Bayern Munich's draw at Leipzig in the Bundesliga saying such comments are not helpful. Ter Stegen hits back, saying it's not up to Neuer to talk about his feelings.
September 2019 — ter Stegen returns to Germany with Barcelona in the Champions League and makes brilliant penalty save from Dortmund's Marco Reus.
Hoeness wades into debate
Bayern Munich President Uli Hoeness decided to get involved, claiming that if Neuer was dropped from Germany the Bundesliga champions could boycott the Nationalmannschaft.
"Before that happens we will not send Bayern players to the national team any more," the outgoing president remarked to Sport Bild.
Not only would such a move be highly controversial, it would also be a clear breach of FIFA regulations as clubs must always make their players available for international selection. Hoeness appears to have backtracked slightly on those comments, with his office saying that "the topic is long settled for him and there is no further comment from him."
But earlier, when asked if the situation between Neuer and ter Stegen reminded him of Oliver Kahn and Jens Lehmann prior to the 2006 World Cup, Hoeness replied: "No. But we will never accept that a change happens here."