To celebrate Alex Manninger’s birthday, Mirror Football takes a look inside the bizarre transfer that saw the Austrian goalkeeper end up at Liverpool after Jurgen Klopp gave him a surprise phone call
The German has been involved in some masterstroke’s with almost the entirety of his exceptional Liverpool side being put together since 2015, when Klopp as appointed. But fans were stunned when Klopp signed 39-year-old Manninger on a short-term deal as a back-up goalkeeper in 2016.
The Austrian was signed by Arsenal earlier on in his career, but had spent two decades travelling around Europe as a no.2 goalkeeper until he was given a call by Klopp who was desperate to sign him. And here Mirror Football take a look at Liverpool’s bizarre swoop for the former goalkeeper that surprised even Manninger himself.
Manninger began his career in Austria before being signed by the newly appointed Arsene Wenger in 1997, as the goalkeeper become David Seaman’s back-up. His five-year stint ended with optimism as he went to join Espanyol in Spain, but he struggled to nail down a starting role for the remainder of his career.
However, his agent was clearly a master, as a two-year stint at Italian minnows Sienna resulted in a move to Udinese in 2008, before Juventus picked him up on a four-year deal. Manninger later joined Augsburg, where he must have thought he would see out the remainder of his playing days, until Klopp gave the Austrian a surprise ring in 2016.
Liverpool had already signed Loris Karius that summer to provide back-up to Simon Mignolet, but later on in the window Manninger was approached, and the 39-year-old couldn’t possibly say no. Upon signing, he told Liverpool’s official website: “Honestly, it was a surprise.
Liverpool FC via Getty)
“After these years, in Italy and the last four years in Germany, I hadn’t given up, I hadn’t said ‘that’s it’, I still waited for the phone call. When Liverpool was on the phone, it was a great pleasure for me to take it on because it gives me what I was looking for. This is the moment I was waiting for until the end.
“I’ve still got something left, for sure, but obviously it’s probably not the time for me to push for the next three or four years to get a place in the goal. Because time says it’s not possible to play 50 games a year.
“But if I’m called up, I’m definitely there for games, I will play. And I’ll definitely be in the changing room every game, giving my input; I hope, even if it’s only a couple of per cent, it will do the rest.”
Manninger never ended up making a competitive appearance for Liverpool, and announced his retirement 10 months after signing the short-term deal. But it’s certainly a good way to sign off, as he faced off against the likes of Sadio Mane, Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino in training.
The Austrian may have ended his career in style, but he started it all off with a five-year stint with Arsenal, and even won the Premier League player of the month award in March 1998. Manninger was part of a double winning side that year, as he collected both a Premier League and FA Cup winners medal with the Gunners.
His cameo in March was instrumental to Wenger’s side lifting the league title, and it wasn’t the only major title he won in his career. Manninger also won Serie A with Juventus in 2012, before leaving the club shortly after.
It may not have been the career that Manninger would have hoped for. But being able to tell friends and loved ones that you’d won titles with Arsenal and Juventus while signing things off at Liverpool is quite the story.
Manninger also made 33 appearances for Austria over a 10-year period representing his national team, and he even made the squad for their first ever European Championships in 2008 as they hosted the tournament alongside Switzerland.
Since retiring, Manninger has been focussing on his work in furniture and real estate, and the goalkeeper was even a carpenter before getting his break in football. Over a long career, Manninger certainly racked up some healthy contracts, and has reinvested his earnings in his real estate.