Michael Langer is more than just a substitute keeper at FC Schalke 04: the 38-year-old Austrian has been doing a trainee program since last summer. In an interview with SPOX and GOAL he talks about his different activities, his former colleague Alexander Nübel, a meeting with Sir Alex Ferguson – and reveals which FC Bayern Munich player has the best shot.
Langer joined Schalke in 2017 on a free transfer from Swedish club IFK Norrköping. Since then he was second or third keeper and only played five competitive games. When Schalke meets FC Bayern on Saturday, he will sit on the bench as a substitute for Alexander Schwolow because of Ralf Fährmann’s injury.
Mister Langer, you’ve been playing for FC Schalke 04 for almost six years now. When you arrived, were you hoping for such a long-term commitment?
Michael Langer: You can’t plan that. But it’s wonderful that I can get to know such a huge club so intensively in the autumn of my career.
They were never regular goalkeepers. Did you ever have motivation problems because of that?
Longer: No not at all. For me, the love of the game is paramount. From year to year I’ve made sure that I improve myself, learn from the other goalkeepers and do my part to make it a success. We push each other in the goalkeeper group and have a homogeneous togetherness.
What impresses you about your previous rivals?
Longer: When I came to Schalke in 2017, Ralle (Ralf Fährmann, editor’s note) was the absolute benchmark in the Bundesliga. I was able to learn something from all areas. Alex (Alexander Nübel, editor’s note) has a special X-factor in his game. I discussed many processes, tactics and specific situations with him.
Alexander Nübel switched to FC Bayern Munich in 2020, but couldn’t get past Manuel Neuer there and has been on loan at AS Monaco for two years. How do you rate his move?
Longer: I don’t presume to judge that. Personally, I found his departure a pity because I like him very much. I enjoyed spending time with him. We also quarreled and bickered – and pushed each other as a result. That was really fun. We follow each other, talk on the phone and meet up in our free time. A real friendship developed.
At Schalke there is a so-called goalkeeper cash register. What’s it all about?
Longer: In the goalkeeper group, we always have competitions for small amounts. With the money we bring in, we go out to eat together after the season.
You have been completing a trainee program at Schalke since last summer. What can that mean?
Longer: I’m allowed to get a taste of different areas of the club, for example I was at Knappenschmiede for a month and scouting for a month. Norbert Elgert and André Hechelmann really took me with them. It is incredibly exciting for me to follow the day-to-day work in these areas. I kept getting lost in deeper conversations, forgot the time – and suddenly it was dark. In every department I’ve had moments where I’ve thought, “Wow, this aspect is completely new to me.”
What was such a wow moment?
Longer: I don’t want to go into too much detail there. But I was incredibly impressed by how Norbert Elgert not only shapes young people as footballers but also as people.
Your contract as reserve keeper and the trainee program will end in the summer. What’s next for you then?
Longer: The full focus is on the last games of the season and our goal of staying in the league. After that we sit down together.
Two years ago you were relegated from the Bundesliga with Schalke. Is the current situation comparable to that of the past?
Longer: This time we knew from the first moment that it was going to be a difficult season and that we were going to lose a few games in a row. The fans feel and appreciate that we try everything and tear ourselves apart on the field. That’s why there’s an incredible atmosphere in the stadium. It’s amazing how the fans support us. That means an incredible amount to us.
In 2021, some fans physically attacked players after losing an away game against Arminia Bielefeld.
Longer: That was one of the few games that season that I wasn’t in the squad. It was a bad situation for us overall – but also for the fans because they weren’t allowed into the stadium for months due to the corona restrictions. It is clear that anger is building up because of this. The events after the Bielefeld game justify that in no way. But I’m sure that wouldn’t have happened with fans in the stadium.
How difficult is it to celebrate success with possibly the same fans who attacked the team back then?
Longer: The events of that time are no longer an issue. We’re a different team than we were two years ago and we’ve experienced a lot of positive things together with the fans this season – in good times and in bad.
How do you experience coach Thomas Reis?
Longer: The coach has an extremely good feel for the team. He combines hard work with a certain looseness. The units are 100 percent on fire, but you can also laugh.
To what extent does he draw on your many years of experience?
Longer: We older players are extremely important to the coach. We should pass on our experiences in discussions and motivate the boys. If we notice something, we should address it immediately. I want to be a support to the boys. It’s true within the team, we’re a tight-knit bunch.
Next Saturday we face FC Bayern Munich, a Schalke victory would also help the title ambitions of local rivals Borussia Dortmund. Is the topic yours?
Longer: No, to 0.0 percent. We only look at ourselves.
Yann Sommer has been in goal at FC Bayern since the winter break, and recently there has been a lot of discussion about his lack of height.
Longer: The criticism of him is sometimes much too harsh for me. Every goalkeeper has different advantages. In this respect, I find it difficult to compare him with Manuel Neuer, for example. For me, Yann Sommer is a world-class keeper.
From a goalkeeper’s point of view: Which Bayern player has the most dangerous shot?
Longer: Leon (Leon Goretzka, editor’s note) has a nice right glue (laughs). I was able to experience that here in training. Otherwise, I think Leroy Sané’s shot is great.
A little look back: In 2009 you completed a trial at Manchester United. How come?
Longer: United were then looking for a third goalkeeper. A consultant organized the trial training. I also benefited from the fact that United’s goalkeeper coach Eric Steele already knew me from a summer camp in Germany. In the end I was there for four days. For me it was a huge experience.
Why didn’t a change work?
Longer: We stayed in touch for half a year after that, but it never became concrete.
Did you have contact with Sir Alex Ferguson on site?
Longer: Yes, I remember that very well. Suddenly, while having lunch in the canteen, the chair to my right moved backwards – and Sir Alex Ferguson sat down next to it. We talked for half an hour. It was impressive how much he wanted to know about me, my family and my youth. Unfortunately, my English was very bad at the time. I apologized to him for that. My school English and his Scottish accent were not a good match (laughs).
Two years earlier you won the German championship as Timo Hildebrand’s substitute keeper with VfB Stuttgart.
Longer: It’s like a short film in my head that I play over and over again. We had an outstanding team back then, a great team of coaches and unbelievable self-confidence. Everything was fine there.
Are you still in contact with your colleagues from back then?
Longer: I keep exchanging ideas with one or the other. The association organized a meeting for the tenth anniversary. Almost all of the boys were there.
Michael Langer: His stations in professional football