The very strange story of Alex Manninger

By Tony Attwood

Alexander “Alex” Manninger was born 4 June 1977 and has one of the most extraordinary histories in modern football  I have ever seen.

So odd is his story that I have no idea which bits are right, not least because I am having trouble with Alex’ basic appearance figures for Arsenal as Wikipedia, and Dean Hayes’ usually reliable guide all show different totals for the number of games played for Arsenal.

Here are the competing figures: “He may have only made 63 starts during his five years in north London…”

Against this, Dean Hayes guide has him playing 38 league games, and one appearance as a substitute.  Wiki has him playing 30.

As for his club list Wiki has him playing for 15 different clubs with Siena having the highest number of games: 64.

So until someone has the time to plough through all the official records of games played we have to leave it as “he played for Arsenal”.

As for his time at Arsenal, he was signed in June 1997, and he played as a reserve to David Seaman.  He got his first change at the start of 1998 aged 20 and was involved in a run of six games without letting in a goal.

Most memorably he was in goal for the Man U game away in March 1988 when Marc Overmars scored the only (but often showed) goal of the game.  I think the picture of the fan almost bursting a blood vessel or nine shouting “yes” at the end of a match (which is often shown on the “big screen”) comes from the end of that game.  At least that’s how I remember it; Sky used it as an icon for a while.

So all was set fair, and in that March he was named as Premier League player of the month. then make an interesting point: “Although he did not play the required number of games to receive a League Winner’s medal, Alex was rightfully awarded with one.”  I wonder how that was arranged – Wiki has it that the League said he had made such a contribution to the game that he deserved the medal.  I wonder if that was a first.

He stayed for four seasons in which he played some games (but everyone seems to disagree how many) before moving on to  Fiorentina in 2002.

His move was hastened when Arsenal purchased Richard wright in 2001, and Manninger became third choice.  It seems a rapid fall from “player of the month” to third choice keeper.  He went on loan to Fiorentina and when that was over he was transferred to Espanyol for around £1m.

Why Arsenal demoted him and sold him I don’t know – especially after such heroics, but there was clearly something wrong since Espanyol sold Alex on after just seven weeks.  One story is that there never was a completed transfer, the other that Espanyol didn’t have the money to buy him.  The latter seems less likely since Spanish clubs regularly buy players without having the money to do so, and then pay over a number of years.   Maybe they were slow with the first down-payment of £250,000.

Quite what happened next I am not sure either, but he then moved to Torino in January 2003, but only for six months before going on to Bologna.  He went on loan to Brescia Calcio in July 2004, and then in August went to AC Siena on loan.

So the story continues, with spells at Red Bull Salzburg,  A.C. Siena again, where he did play the most games but was then released on a free transfer and duly went back to Red Bull before going to Udinese Calcio.  He stayed for two weeks before signing for Juventus.  Between 2008 and 2012 he made 35 appearances.

The comings and goings may be coincidences, but if so Manninger is one of the most unlucky players around.  But, I wonder.  He looked so good when he played for us, he looked destined to become our number 1, or go to another big club and make his name.  Could it be that whatever happened at Arsenal happened elsewhere too?

But even if some of the facts in the list below are wrong (and given the disagreement over number of games at Arsenal they might be) he has moved and moved and moved, and some of the moves seem so fast one wonders….  Below is the table of his career from Wiki.  But given the three different totals given for his period of Arsenal, I can’t guarantee any of it.  The Wiki figures always count league games.

Years Team Apps (Gls)
1995–1996 SV Salzburg 1 (0)
1995 → Vorwärts Steyr (loan) 5 (0)
1996–1997 Grazer AK 24 (0)
1997–2002 Arsenal 30 (0)
2001–2002 → Fiorentina (loan) 24 (0)
2002 Espanyol 0 (0)
2003 Torino 3 (0)
2003–2005 Bologna 0 (0)
2004–2005 → Siena (loan) 19 (0)
2005–2006 Red Bull Salzburg 16 (0)
2006–2008 Siena 64 (0)
2008 Red Bull Salzburg 0 (0)
2008 Udinese 0 (0)
2008–2012 Juventus 27 (0)
2012– FC Augsburg 12 (0)

The books…

See also…


7 Replies to “The very strange story of Alex Manninger”

  1. Actually, the reason he went from hero to “zero” at highbury was because of lost in confidence. He let in 4 goals against can’t remember who, and then, he disappeared. He became a different keeper. Every time he played, he was hesitant. What a shame too, he was really good. But I guess not good enough. I think, every place he played, he played as a backup.

  2. I seem to recall a disastrous lack of confidence towards the end of his stay at Arsenal. Which was a pity remembering his heroics earlier on.

  3. He had major problems with his player registration after leaving Arsenal. I think Espanyol sold him but lost his registration forms which made it difficult for him to play for any other clubs as UEFA deemed that he was still registered with Espanyol. This went on for ages.

  4. Tony,

    I thought there were stats hosted by this site
    which i’ve always used when confused about stats. Really it is very poor for what purports to be a history site to be using wiki when you have at your fingertips a fantastic stats site. For Your Reference Mr Kellys site notes 39 Arsenal league games (38 +1).

  5. Always had a spot soft for Manninger, but after the game vs Spartak Moscow he was never the same.

  6. I’m pretty certain he picked up a bad ankle/knee injury and although the medical team said it was healed when he came back he lost his bottle after that and always seemed very on edge and fearful (a bit like Petit after his injury). Once it became clear that he was never going to get over the mental side of the injury he was finished with Arsenal. I’m happy and surprised to see he had as decent a career as he’s ended up having.

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