Ivan Perisic may be coming to the end of his season-long loan from Inter, but Bayern Munich's chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge insists his club remain undecided over a permanent move.

Former Borussia Dortmund and Wolfsburg winger Perisic returned to the Bundesliga on a season-long loan in August, yet he has made just nine Bundesliga starts for champions Bayern in 2019-20.

A fractured ankle, suffered in February, has not helped Perisic's cause, while Niko Kovac, his former Croatia coach, was replaced at Bayern by Hansi Flick in November.

Perisic made a first appearance since his injury lay-off from the bench during Bayern's 2-0 win over Union Berlin on Sunday and Rummenigge wants to see the 31-year-old in action across the final games of the campaign before making a call on his future.

"We have not spoken because Perisic has just come back after the foot injury," Rummenigge told Gazzetta dello Sport. 

"But with [Inter chief executive Giuseppe] Marotta I have a really very friendly relationship, let's see when he will play a few games.

"We will talk to each other because even the player will want to know where he will play. 

"If I know where he will play? It is not yet decided."

Manuel Neuer is set for three more seasons at Bayern Munich after penning a contract extension until 2023.

The Germany international has established himself as one of the greats of the modern era and is well-placed to win an eighth consecutive Bundesliga title.

The 34-year-old also counts the 2012-13 Champions League and 2014 World Cup among his career honours, but recent seasons have raised questions over whether he remains the same peerless operator he was during those mid-decade glory days.

Alexander Nubel's pending arrival from Schalke suggests Bayern are keen to insure themselves against any dip in form from their club captain over the coming years, so it feels a good time to ask - is Neuer still an elite goalkeeper when compared to contemporaries widely considered to be at the top of their trade?

HEADING BACK IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION

Sunday's 2-0 win at Union Berlin saw Neuer chalk up his 11th Bundesliga clean sheet of the season.

Aside from the 2017-18 campaign, when injuries restricted him to three top-flight outings, he has reached double figures for shutouts every year of his senior career – dating back to 2006-07 when he managed 13 from 27 games at former club Schalke.

However, having stopped around four of every five shots for the majority of his Bayern days, Neuer's save percentage plummeted to 59.7 last season, while his 23 goals conceded outstripped Opta's expected goals on target (xGOT) number of 20.1.

xGOT gives an indication of the number of goals a goalkeeper should concede based upon the quality of shot faced.

This term, Neuer has those numbers in the right order once more. Although 26 let in is already his highest figure in the Bundesliga since his final season at Schalke (a whopping 44 in 2010-11), his xGOT number is 29.5 and his overall save percentage is back up to a more respectable 70.1.

TER STEGEN PRESSING A CASE FOR DIE MANNSCHAFT?

Having stood apart as Germany's number one for the best part of a decade, Neuer has seen Barcelona's Marc-Andre ter Stegen make an increasingly strong case to displace him in the national team.

Neuer's fitness woes coupled with a disappointing 2018 World Cup performance played a part, while Ter Stegen has arguably established himself as Barca's most important player not named Lionel Messi.

This campaign, Neuer is statistically out-performing his Germany rival. Ter Stegen has conceded 29 times with an xGOT reading of 26, while he has managed eight clean sheets from 26 LaLiga matches.

Last season, Ter Stegen's efforts made for very impressive reading, however, with 16 clean sheets and 32 goals conceded in 35 top-flight matches.

His xGOT was up at 38.3 and his save percentage was 72.7 – better than 65.5 this time around.

Both men have shown themselves to be fine proponents of the modern art of sweeper keeping, although Neuer is more active in this regard of late. According to Opta, Ter Stegen has five "keeper sweepings" to his name in each of the past two seasons, with Neuer making nine and 17.

OBLAK THE LEADER OF THE PACK

Looking beyond Germany's number one and two goalkeepers, there is a clear standout performer.

Jan Oblak's virtuoso display at Anfield as Atletico Madrid ended Liverpool's Champions League defence in March was enough to hearten any keeping enthusiast over the intervening barren months.

Such heroics are not unusual for the Slovenia star, who conceded 27 goals despite an xGOT number of 40.3 in 2018-19.

Oblak finished with 20 clean sheets last season, a figure Neuer touched in the back-to-back 2014-15 and 2015-16 campaigns at Bayern. Remarkably, Oblak had 24 league shutouts (and a save percentage of 81.8) in the latter, while he amassed 22 in 2017-18.

This time around, he only has 11 and his save ratio is below 75 per cent for the first time in his Atleti career, and 21 goals conceded compared to xGOT 22.3 has levelled out.

Oblak's two keeper sweepings in 2019-20 underlines his reputation as more of an "old school" goalkeeper, rather than someone accustomed to raiding out of their penalty area.

DE GEA COMING OFF HIS PEAK

Manchester United's David de Gea is also a player who would be counted as being at odds to the new wave of players between the posts, although a dip in his imperious levels has left the Spain international facing similar questions to Neuer over the past couple of seasons.

If United's second-place finish in the 2017-18 Premier League was one of Jose Mourinho's greatest achievements, it certainly ranks as one of De Gea's. He saved in excess of 80 per cent of shots and kept 18 clean sheets, conceding 28 times in 37 matches.

De Gea has already let in more in 2019-20 (30), while he shipped 54 in an increasingly error-strewn 2018-19. Although, perhaps it is as much a case of performances reverting to a mean and not bailing out some haphazard defending in front of him.

In the past two seasons, United's expected goals against (xG) – based upon the quality of chances afforded to opposition players – read 51.2 and 30.2.

SAFE HANDS AT THE BACK OF KLOPP'S MACHINE

Liverpool have transformed from great entertainers to a relentless winning machine since Alisson arrived from Roma in 2018, with Adrian's flimsy showing against Atletico in European competition serving as an uncomfortable reminder of the recent past for the Reds.

Able to build from the back, Brazil's number one has 29 keeper sweeping in a 58-game Premier League career, while also dealing well in the old currency of clean sheets, tallying up 31 in the competition.

Undoubtedly well protected by a defence led by Virgil van Dijk, Alisson is reliable when called upon. His 2019-20 save ratio is up to 80.4 from 77.1 per cent.

Last season, he out-performed his xGOT of 27.5 by letting in just 22, although 11 conceded is slightly higher than a staggeringly low 9.7 xGOT in 2019-20.

That number drops from an xG against of 17.5, suggesting Alisson – who missed an early chunk of the current season due to a calf injury – has also benefitted from wasteful finishing by opponents during Liverpool's march towards the title.

Emre Can believes Borussia Dortmund have the required belief to pass Bayern Munich and win the Bundesliga, citing the drive of Juventus star Cristiano Ronaldo as an example to follow.

The former Juve, Liverpool and Bayern midfielder joined Dortmund initially on loan in January, with the club making the move permanent for €25million within weeks.

Can insists he did not move to BVB to settle for second place and has been impressed by the development of a winning mentality within the club, which he felt was lacking immediately after his arrival.

Dortmund host leaders Bayern, who they trail by four points, next Tuesday as they look to avenge a 4-0 defeat in November's reverse fixture.

"In my first few weeks at BVB, I felt that maybe that [belief] was missing a little," Can told Bild.

"In the meantime, that has definitely changed. It is more serious, more focused."

Referring to his experience playing alongside Ronaldo at Juve, Can added: "If he loses a training game, he is in a bad mood. 

"If he wins, he celebrates in the dressing room and annoys the losers. That mentality drives on not only him, but everyone.

"I moved to BVB because I want to win titles. I didn't come to consolidate second place behind Bayern. Our goal at BVB is to land in front of Bayern and that is why we need a win next week.

"If we are as close to Bayern as we are now, we don't have to hide [our goal]."

Dortmund made a positive start after the resumption of Bundesliga action at the weekend, beating rivals Schalke 4-0 despite the absence of Can through injury.

Manuel Neuer's contract extension is a strong statement of intent from Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich, according to Oliver Kahn.

Neuer agreed terms until 2023 on Wednesday, with his previous deal having been due to expire in 2021.

The news laid to rest doubts over the goalkeeper's future, with the impending arrival of Schalke's Alexander Nubel potentially heralding a new era between the sticks.

Former Bayern keeper and current board member Kahn was delighted to see the 34-year-old commit to the club, who are eyeing an eighth consecutive top-flight title. 

"Another big decision for a successful future! Manuel Neuer is the captain and one of the most important pillars of our team," Kahn tweeted.

"He embodies great years of German football and we're happy to continue the way of FC Bayern together.

"This extension is a strong signal."

Neuer told Bayern's website he was looking ahead "with great optimism", revealing he felt "very comfortable and at home in Bavaria", having arrived at the club from Schalke in 2011.

Hansi Flick's side returned to Bundesliga action following the coronavirus-enforced lockdown with a 2-0 win at Union Berlin on Sunday, with Neuer in the starting XI.

Manuel Neuer's new contract at Bayern Munich means another club great will be on hand to try and shape the Hansi Flick era.

Former Germany assistant Flick took on his full-time post as head coach at the start of April, after impressing as an interim replacement for Niko Kovac.

The club then moved quickly to secure Thomas Muller until 2023, with the versatile forward enjoying a resurgent campaign at the Allianz Arena - contributing six goals and 16 assists in 26 Bundesliga games.

Despite playing down suggestions his own new deal was imminent following last weekend's 2-0 win at Union Berlin, Neuer has now joined Muller in committing until the end of 2022-23.

The 34-year-old appears ready to face a potential battle for his first-team place, with Alexander Nubel poised to make the same move from Schalke that he made almost a decade ago, although an 11th clean sheet of season last time out suggests he still has plenty to offer.

Bayern must now turn their attention towards the expiring contract status of four more global stars and decide whether they have a part to play in Flick's vision, while also considering how the post-coronavirus transfer market might play out.

DAVID ALABA

The lavishly gifted Austria international has flourished under Flick, stepping effortlessly into the heart of defence following injuries to Niklas Sule and Lucas Hernandez.

The 27-year-old has started each of Bayern's past 17 Bundesliga matches and has no shortage of admirers.

Amid reports of him being unsettled in Bavaria, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Manchester City have all been linked with his services of late.

JEROME BOATENG

In many ways, the exemplar of Bayern's renaissance under Flick. The former Germany defender played 13 of 26 matches at the start of the season.

Since Germany's winter break, he has started 10 games, performing with his customary assurance and recording a 92 per cent pass completion rate.

However, Boateng will be 32 in September and this run of form might come to be viewed as a fitting swansong at the Allianz Arena, especially once Sule and Hernandez return to fitness.

JAVI MARTINEZ

A well-liked and versatile performer, Martinez's eight years at Bayern have been peppered with injury woes.

The 31-year-old Spain international was not part of the matchday squad against Union and a return to Athletic Bilbao would not be a surprise.

THIAGO ALCANTARA

Thiago wowed with a midfield masterclass in the game that arguably sealed Flick's long-term future – the 3-0 Champions League win at Chelsea in February.

At 29, Thiago is in his prime and must be a central figure in any Bayern reboot.

Manuel Neuer has signed a contract extension with Bayern Munich to keep him at the club until 2023.

Goalkeeper Neuer's contract had been due to expire at the end of next season in 2021.

Doubts over the 34-year-old's future at the club were raised when Bayern made the signing of Schalke's Alexander Nubel, who will move to the Allianz Arena at the end of the current campaign.

However, Neuer will not be leaving for pastures new, with the Germany international telling Bayern's official website: "I feel very comfortable and at home in Bavaria.

"FC Bayern are one of Europe's top football clubs.

"During the weeks of the shutdown for the coronavirus pandemic, I didn't want to make a decision because nobody knew if, when and how Bundesliga football would continue.

"It was important for me to continue working with our goalkeeping coach Toni Tapalovic. Now this has been resolved, I look to the future with great optimism." 

CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge added: "FC Bayern are very happy Manuel has extended his contract until 30 June 2023.

"Manuel is the best goalkeeper in the world and our captain."

Neuer joined Bayern from Schalke in 2011 and has gone on to enjoy remarkable success for both club and country.

He has lifted the Bundesliga title seven times in his time at Bayern, with whom he has also won four DFB-Pokals, the Champions League and the Club World Cup.

Voted as World's Best Goalkeeper on four occasions, Neuer won the World Cup with Germany in 2014 and was selected as the recipient of the Golden Glove award for his efforts in Brazil.

Bayern lead the Bundesliga, which resumed last weekend behind closed doors, by four points with eight games remaining.

Philippe Coutinho's future remains undecided despite the Brazilian's loan spell at Bayern Munich from Barcelona coming towards its end, according to his agent Kia Joorabchian.

Coutinho, 27, joined Bayern on loan with the option to buy last August after an underwhelming first full season at Camp Nou, having previously starred for Liverpool.

While the attacking midfielder has not been a failure by any stretch of the imagination, scoring eight goals and setting up another six in 22 Bundesliga matches, Bayern are reported to have turned their attention towards other targets instead of triggering their €120million purchase option.

Bayer Leverkusen star Kai Havertz and Manchester City's Leroy Sane are said to be interesting Die Roten, with both significantly younger than the Brazilian and also German.

Reports in Spain claim Bayern are looking to extend Coutinho's loan to at least cover the remainder of the season, instead of losing him at the end of June, but beyond that, Joorabchian accepts little has been decided even if he would be happy to remain in Munich.

"I can say that Philippe is very happy in Munich," Joorabchian told Sport1. "He likes the club and its high level of professionalism.

"The most important thing for him now is to focus on a quick recovery [from an ankle injury] so that he can help his team back on the pitch as soon as possible. Then we'll see how things develop.

"No decision has yet been made regarding his future. As I have said many times in uncertain times like this, we are not currently talking about any transfers or future plans and have not discussed them yet."

Coutinho was unable to feature in Sunday's 2-0 win at Union Berlin as the Bundesliga resumed.

He is expected to make his return from injury soon, with Bayern initially stating he was to begin his recovery work on May 8.

Robert Lewandowski and Erling Haaland are tearing up the Bundesliga, and former Bayern Munich striker Roy Makaay admits he is astonished by the duo.

Bayern talisman Lewandowski reached 40 goals across all competitions for a fifth straight season at the weekend, with a penalty helping Bayern to a 2-0 win at Union Berlin.

Teenager Haaland had set Borussia Dortmund on the way to a 4-0 Revierderby triumph over Schalke on Saturday, taking his Bundesliga tally to 10 goals in nine games since joining from Salzburg.

Former Netherlands international Makaay, who starred for Bayern from 2003 to 2007, has been bowled over their feats.

Makaay said of Lewandowski, who jumped ship from Dortmund six years ago to join Bayern: "He is one of the world's best strikers, very complete. Every season he scores more than 20 goals, his hard work and his eye for the other players is important.

"He was an incredibly good signing in 2014. Free transfer! You have to imagine that."

Haaland is threatening to usurp Lewandowski as the most-feared frontman in Germany, just months after arriving at Dortmund.

Makaay, now a youth coach with Feyenoord, recalled the Dutch outfit facing Salzburg in pre-season, saying Haaland "immediately attracted attention".

Speaking to German magazine Kicker, Makaay said: "What can you say when you see his record? Goals, goals, goals. I'm excited to see how he will develop. It's incredible, what he has done so far."

There is another promising striker for whom Makaay has high hopes, with his fellow Dutchman Joshua Zirkzee having caught the eye at Bayern when Lewandowski was briefly injured.

The 18-year-old Zirkzee is well known to Makaay, having come through the Feyenoord youth ranks before moving in 2017 to Bayern.

"During his year at Feyenoord I had him in striker training every now and then," Makaay said. "At the time he was 16. He is without a doubt a very talented player, but also very young."

Zirkzee has played just 170 minutes in the Bundesliga this season but already has three goals.

"I saw his goals, outstanding, beautiful," said Makaay. "Now he has to play a lot to get better."

Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Inter will contest the European Solidarity Cup in 2021 with the aim of raising money for healthcare resources in Italy and Spain in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

Spain and Italy have been two of the hardest-hit European nations during the COVID-19 outbreak, recording 27,709 and 32,007 deaths, respectively.

Everyday life – including sport – has seen massive changes across both countries over the past two months, with lockdown measures only recently beginning to be eased.

The three European giants will play matches next year to determine the winner of the European Solidary Cup, but the main purpose will be to aid the purchasing of healthcare supplies and express gratitude to medical professionals for their work during the pandemic.

The matches will be played across each of the three cities, with the tournament announced for 2021 in the hope fans will once again be able to attend.

A statement released by Los Blancos read: "Real Madrid are set to team up with Bayern Munich and Inter to host the European Solidarity Cup in 2021. The three clubs will come together to send out a message of solidarity and fraternity to the people of Europe.

"The solidarity event will see three football matches held during 2021 in the cities of Madrid, Munich and Milan. The dates for these games will depend on the competitive calendar and of course will take place when the fans are able to return to the stands.

"The three teams will all come up against each other: Madrid vs Inter will happen in Madrid, Inter vs Bayern is set for Milan and Bayern vs Madrid will be held in Munich. The proceeds from these games will go towards the purchase of healthcare resources in Italy and Spain.

"Healthcare staff who continue to fight the pandemic will be represented at all of the games. The three clubs wish to demonstrate to these heroes all of our solidarity, respect and gratitude."

Bayern resumed their 2019-20 Bundesliga campaign on Sunday with a 2-0 win over Union Berlin.

LaLiga and Serie A are not expected to recommence until next month at the earliest, however.

Clubs are queuing to sign Timo Werner.

The RB Leipzig star has reportedly attracted interest from the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea and Bayern Munich.

While Liverpool have emerged as favourites to sign Werner, the Germany international could move to Inter.

 

TOP STORY – WERNER OPENS DOOR FOR INTER MOVE

RB Leipzig forward Timo Werner is open to joining Inter amid Liverpool links, according to Calciomercato.

Werner has been tipped to move to Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool, despite reported interest from Manchester United, Bayern Munich and Chelsea.

But with Inter star Lautaro Martinez being targeted by Barcelona, Werner could arrive at San Siro as a replacement.

 

ROUND-UP

- Bundesliga champions Bayern have no interest in making Philippe Coutinho's stay permanent, reports Mundo Deportivo. However, Bayern are open to extending the Barca misfit's loan deal for another season.

Dries Mertens is on the verge of signing a new contract with Napoli, says Sportitalia. Mertens had reportedly been set to join Italian rivals Inter on a free transfer but he is on course to remain in Naples.

- According to Sport, Jean-Clair Todibo could be the key in seeing Miralem Pjanic swap Juventus for Barcelona. Pjanic is wanted by LaLiga champs Barca but Juve want midfielder Arthur in exchange. Amid complicated negotiations, Todibo has emerged as a target for Juve – who could part with Mattia De SciglioParis Saint-Germain are also interested in Pjanic.

Luka Jovic is set to have more time to convince head coach Zinedine Zidane at Real Madrid, says AS Diario. Madrid are believed to be eyeing Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland but he reportedly does not have a release clause for January 2021, allowing Jovic to stake his claim after struggling since arriving from Eintracht Frankfurt.

- Despite the coronavirus pandemic, Bayer Leverkusen are not prepared to sell star Kai Havertz for less than €100million (£89m). Havertz has been linked to Liverpool, Juve, Bayern and Barca among others.

Could Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland move to Real Madrid in the same window?

Mbappe and Haaland are highly coveted by Zinedine Zidane and Madrid's hierarchy.

Zidane is reportedly keen on pairing Mbappe and Haaland with Eden Hazard in the Spanish capital.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID EYEING STAR DUO

Real Madrid will wait until 2021 to sign Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe and Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland, according to the front page of Diario AS.

Madrid have been continually linked with moves for Mbappe and Haaland, though previous reports have claimed Los Blancos would target the former next year.

However, Monday's edition of Diario AS says Madrid are prepared to hold off until 2021 to ensure both players arrive at the Santiago Bernabeu.

ROUND-UP

- The Sunday Times says Juventus are interested in signing Wolves striker Raul Jimenez. The Mexico international is also reportedly wanted by Manchester United.

Barcelona and Juventus have verbally struck a deal on a multi-player transfer, reports Sport. Miralem Pjanic and Mattia De Sciglio plus €25million will move to Barca in exchange for Nelson Semedo. However, Sky Sport Italia claims Pjanic will only join Barca if Arthur moves the other way to Juve.

Milan captain Alessio Romagnoli is set to sign a contract renewal, according to Calciomercato. The Italy international defender's current deal is due to expire in 2022.

Liverpool are eyeing Real Sociedad defender Diego Llorente, reports La Razon. The 26-year-old is also wanted by Ligue 1's Monaco.

- FC Inter 1908 claims Inter are favourites to sign Brescia sensation Sandro Tonali. The midfielder has also been linked to Juventus, Manchester City and Barca.

Arsenal are looking at signing Amiens forward Serhou Guirassy, says the Daily Mail. West Ham and Bournemouth are also said to be interested.

- Le10Sport claims Paris Saint-Germain have joined the list of admirers of Lyon's Houssem Aouar, who has also been linked to United, City and Juve.

Sergino Dest is a player in demand. Mundo Deportivo says PSG are also interested in Ajax's 19-year-old United States star. Bayern Munich and Barca have been linked.

Robert Lewandowski is being backed to challenge Gerd Muller's record of scoring 40 goals in a single Bundesliga season.

The powerful Pole took his season's tally to 26 goals in 24 league games with a penalty that set Bayern on course for a 2-0 win at Union Berlin on Sunday.

In their first game back after the coronavirus suspension, Bayern were the dominant side without being at their very best.

Lewandowski's influence fluctuated, but he remains the man to whom Bayern look for goals, and head coach Hansi Flick is confident there are plenty more to come in this campaign.

Bayern have just eight games remaining in the league, so it would take a supreme effort for Lewandowski to match or pass Muller, who set the record while playing for Bayern in the 1971-72 season.

But providing Bayern can offer him the right service, Flick does not discount it happening.

"Lewy makes a good impression, I think he is in top form," said Flick.

"Today we failed to incorporate him into our game as much and we have to do that better in general in our offensive game.

"He scored again, is at 26 goals, and has eight games left to break Gerd Muller's record. That is not going to be easy but he has the quality.

"If someone can do it, it's him."

Lewandowski has 40 for the season already, when domestic cup goals and those in the Champions League are taken into account, reaching that mark for a fifth successive season.

While he continues to be feted, Sunday saw Bayern leave room for improvement, as Flick acknowledged.

Their lead over second-placed Borussia Dortmund is back up to four points, however the teams go head to head later this month in a game that could yet threaten Bayern's momentum.

Flick said: "We had several opportunities to score, especially in the second half, but we didn't take advantage of them.

"Like for example on counter-attacks when we had some space. That's what we have to do better.

"Of course, we knew that at first not everything would go as planned. But the important thing was that we continued to resist and kept being concentrated and in the end won the game."

Thomas Muller said Bayern Munich's first Bundesliga game since the coronavirus stoppage felt similar to the start of a new season.

After the COVID-19 pandemic led to the suspension of most sport across the globe in March, the Bundesliga became the first major league to return behind closed doors this weekend.

Leaders Bayern triumphed 2-0 at Union Berlin on Sunday, with Robert Lewandowski slotting home a first-half penalty and Benjamin Pavard sealing the victory 10 minutes from time.

For Muller, who had a goal ruled out for offside following a VAR check in the opening period, the occasion led to feelings more akin to the excitement of a new campaign.

"We came with the aim of taking the three points back with us and we've done it," said Muller, quoted on Bayern's official website.

"At certain points there was room for improvement, especially in the first 25 minutes when we had too many long balls.

"That got a little better. With the first goal we had a little more security and should have had more before the break. The game was okay, but it could have been better.

"There was a tingling sensation, like before the first Bundesliga matchday in August.

"We are four points clear and have moved one step closer to our main goal."

Manuel Neuer denied Karl-Heinz Rummenigge's suggestion that he is close to signing a contract extension at Bayern Munich.

Germany international Neuer is contracted to Bayern until the end of next season and negotiations over a renewal have become tense.

The 34-year-old goalkeeper last month denied reports he was demanding a five-year deal worth €20million annually and expressed his disappointment that details from the talks had been leaked in the media.

Bayern have a deal in place to sign Alexander Nubel from Schalke at the end of the season but Rummenigge remains confident fresh terms with Neuer will be agreed.

"I'm cautiously optimistic that Manuel will soon accept FC Bayern's offer," Rummenigge told Sky ahead of Bayern's 2-0 win over Union Berlin on Sunday, their first game since the Bundesliga was suspended amid the coronavirus pandemic in March.

"Manuel Neuer knows what he has at FC Bayern and FC Bayern knows what it has in Manuel Neuer. Therefore, it is a marriage that will continue in the future."

However, Neuer painted a different picture after the match.

He insisted confirmation of the extension was not imminent but still believes an agreement can be reached.

"I think Karl-Heinz Rummenigge knows what's going on. There is nothing to announce at the moment," said Neuer.

"There is no ultimatum. It is not necessary to make such a decision at the moment.

"We are both optimistic, of course, but it is still not clear at all."

Robert Lewandowski had been away longer than the Bundesliga.

But in a world where uncertainty surrounds us, there was still a certain inevitability the Pole would make the difference for Bayern Munich at Union Berlin.

A penalty got him there, after Neven Subotic carelessly booted Leon Goretzka, and Benjamin Pavard's late header made the points safe.

And so that's 40 goals again for Lewandowski, reaching that dizzying mark for a fifth season in succession, with eight Bundesliga games remaining and Champions League and DFB Pokal campaigns to complete.

The striker missed Bayern's three games immediately prior to the German season being suspended in March, after hurting his knee in Bayern's 3-0 hush-hushing of Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

But Lewandowski is back in time for Bayern to renew their assault on success at home and in Europe, and given his first 40 goals of the campaign came in just 34 games, what price him making it to the half-century before the season's end?

The penalty, calmly slotted to the bottom right corner after a twitchy run-up, rewarded Bayern for a strong enough first-half showing, one in which they had already seen a Thomas Muller tap-in disallowed after a VAR check.

That had been a classic marginal call - the sort for which we almost became nostalgic during football's grim hiatus.

And of course the goal, when it arrived in the 40th minute, was met by near silence, which is going to take some getting used to.

This is a centenary year for Union's old-school ground, the Stadion An der Alten Forsterei (Stadium of the Old Forestry), and the flag-flying and scarf-waving that is usually such a feature was replaced by the barest of backdrops.

Banks of empty seats can provide colour, but empty terraces speak of bleak times, and there are three major standing areas at Union - one at each end and another running the length of the pitch.

Taking into account the fact each terrace would benefit from a lick of paint, or a truckful, there was a majorly austere vibe to this occasion, and the once-familiar energy and noise isn't returning any time soon.

But Germany could take a bow after an apparently successful weekend. Its decision to bring back the Bundesliga - the first of Europe's major leagues to return - came on the back of the country's seemingly effective steps to control the COVID-19 spread.

The reproduction - or R - rate is reported to be around a manageable 0.75, and while the country is close to reaching 8,000 deaths from the pandemic, that figure is tragically dwarfed elsewhere in Western Europe. The United Kingdom and Italy have passed 30,000 and Spain and France are not far away from that grim mark.

Chancellor Angela Merkel and her team have left governments elsewhere pondering their own handling of the crisis, and the Bundesliga has struck a similarly effective tone.

The return of football in South Korea had a sense of the shambolic about it, but in Germany there has been impressive social distancing, substitutes sitting several seats away from each other in the stands, leaving the pitchside dugouts to coaching staff.

Face masks, too, were on show. Besides the players on the field and the head coaches roaming the touchlines, it was difficult to spot anybody not masked up.

It is such small things, however sobering, that seep back into society. It's about setting an example, and given Bayern's trip to the German capital was being broadcast worldwide, it was not a small audience that was witnessing the German way of operating.

Bayern weren't great, incidentally, but their lead is back up to four points after being trimmed by Borussia Dortmund on Saturday.

And head coach Hansi Flick has now seen his team plunder 50 goals in his 16 Bundesliga matches since taking charge – a record quick time for reaching the landmark.

An eighth successive Bundesliga title is likely but not inevitable, given Dortmund, with the likes of Erling Haaland and Jadon Sancho, are such an exciting proposition.

Bayern and Dortmund must still meet in Der Klassiker. Fans or no fans, that should still amount to a great occasion.

But Bayern are now unbeaten in their last 16 matches, interim coach Flick has become permanent coach Flick, and Lewandowski is at it again. The rust will surely fall away.

Beyond Germany, Bayern's great goal-getter might not have the starry cachet of a Messi or a Ronaldo. Within Germany, the last two months have changed nothing: here, they still bow at the feet of king Lewy.

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