Neuer and Ter Stegen Battle for Germany's Number 1 Goalkeeper Position
The Bayern Munich captain is coming under increasing pressure for the Die Mannschaft gloves.
Germany national team coach Joachim Low has a big decision to make ahead of Euro 2020.
Bayern Munich's Manuel Neuer has been Germany's goalkeeper for a long time, but Barcelona's Marc-Andre ter Stegen is pressing an increasingly strong case for first-choice selection.
This season, a public row has erupted over Low's selection decisions, with Ter Stegen speaking out about his lack of game-time.
For me, it is always a matter of showing the best possible performance.
But it was still Neuer who wore the gloves as Germany won 3-0 in Estonia on Monday to move a step closer to qualifying for Euro 2020.
Next year's tournament is in sight for Germany, beaten semi-finalists at each of the past two European Championships. And the debate will continue to rage over whether it should be Neuer or Ter Stegen in goal.
Neuer injury opened the door
Although Ter Stegen has long been considered a fine goalkeeper, it is only relatively recently that the Barcelona star began to push Neuer hard for his Germany position.
For many years Neuer has been the undisputed number one, a key player in Bayern's treble triumph in 2012-13 and Germany's goalkeeper when they won the World Cup in 2014. The Bavarian icon arguably should have won the Ballon d'Or, regarded as the best goalkeeper in the world by some distance at the time.
A serious foot injury changed everything though, with Neuer sitting out for a year of action in the build-up to the 2018 World Cup.
For a long time it was not clear whether Neuer would be fit to go to the tournament. In his absence, Ter Stegen had continued to develop at Barcelona, thriving with the La Liga giants, and stepping in for Germany with Neuer out.
Low sticks with Neuer for Russia 2018
It was a difficult decision for coach Low when he named his German squad for Russia.
Neuer had yet to prove he was fully fit, and with Ter Stegen waiting in the wings, he had a more than capable deputy who could have filled in. Low opted to go with Neuer while Germany produced a terrible World Cup defence, crashing out in the group stages.
While Neuer was not totally to blame, an enduring image of Germany's exit was his desperate attempt to set up an equalising goal against South Korea. Neuer was caught well down the field and South Korea scored on the counter to seal a historic 2-0- upset.
It is impossible to say whether Neuer's fitness issues contributed to Germany poor performance in Russia, but the tournament solidified the growing idea in Ter Stegen's mind. He felt he should be the Germany goalkeeper from now on. Neuer, however, said he was fit:
I did some medical tests before the World Cup already and if they had not been satisfying, the coaches wouldn't have nominated me. I showed good performances at the World Cup as well, so I don't agree that I'm far from my best form.
Bayern wade into goalkeeping debate
Since the start of the 2019-20 season, Low has been unable to stem the public debate surrounding his starting goalkeeper. After Ter Stegen made his displeasure at being benched plain, Neuer hit back and criticised his compatriot's comments as being unhelpful.
Bayern Munich then got involved with president Uli Hoeness suggesting he would withdraw their players from international duty if Neuer lost his place to Ter Stegen.
Hoeness soon retracted his comments but the debate had been taken to a new level. Low, of course, had already dropped Thomas Muller, Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels - all Bayern players at the time - from his squad in March.
Low had to act over the goalkeeper argument and in a bid to placate Ter Stegen he picked him for a friendly against Argentina. But Neuer was back in goal for the Euro 2020 qualifier in Estonia and the pecking order seems to remain the same in Low's mind:
The situation is clear. I've already said it, Marc will get his games between 2018 and 2020."
What happens next for Neuer and Ter Stegen?
Whether playing in friendlies will keep Ter Stegen happy with Germany remains to be seen.
The Barcelona goalkeeper at least has age on his side. Neuer is 33 and might be coming towards the end of his career, while Ter Stegen is six years younger and will have more chances to play at international tournaments.
Neuer is certainly not the brilliant goalkeeper he once was, while his presence is a constant reminder of Germany's failure at the World Cup.
All Ter Stegen can do is go back to Barcelona and continue to make his case to Low.