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 Arsenal.com Wikipedia, and Dean Hayes’ usually reliable guide all show different totals for the number of games played for Arsenal.
Here are the competing figures:
Arsenal.com “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.
Arsenal.com 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.
|1995||→ Vorwärts Steyr (loan)||5||(0)|
|2001–2002||→ Fiorentina (loan)||24||(0)|
|2004–2005||→ Siena (loan)||19||(0)|
|2005–2006||Red Bull Salzburg||16||(0)|
|2008||Red Bull Salzburg||0||(0)|
- Woolwich Arsenal: The club that changed football – Arsenal’s early years
- Making the Arsenal – how the modern Arsenal was born in 1910
- The Crowd at Woolwich Arsenal FC: crowd behaviour at the early matches