Joachim Low says Bayern Munich goalkeeper Manuel Neuer will only travel to the World Cup as Germany's first choice - meaning that if he is not fit in time, he will not go at all.
Neuer only played three Bundesliga games all season after a metatarsal fracture kept him sidelined from September onwards. Sven Ulreich performed admirably in his absence but Neuer has been fighting to be fit for the World Cup.
Surprisingly, Ulreich was not named in Germany's preliminary squad, with Bernd Leno, Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Kevin Trapp joining Neuer in the list of goalkeepers.
Despite his injury troubles, Neuer will still be Germany's first choice goalkeeper at the tournament if he can prove his fitness. But if he cannot, he may not travel to the tournament at all.
"If he goes to the World Cup, he is the number one," Low told ARD, as quoted by Kicker. "He is our captain, and we won't take him to sit on the bench. It will depend on how he feels and how good the preparations were."
Neuer's fitness is under scrutiny in Germany's training camp in South Tyrol, near the Italy-Austria border. Germany face Austria in their final match before the squad is trimmed to 23, so it may be Neuer's last chance to prove he is ready.
Joachim Löw: "If Manuel Neuer travels to the World Cup, he will be the number one goalkeeper. He is our captain, and we won't take him to sit on the bench. It will depend on how he feels and how good the preparations were" [ARD] pic.twitter.com/eZpsMYjhSB— Bayern & Germany (@iMiaSanMia) May 26, 2018
If included, he will get another warm-up opportunity against Saudi Arabia the following Friday in Leverkusen before flying out to Russia for the tournament.
If Neuer cannot prove his fitness in time, the Germans do have three very able deputies. Barcelona's Ter Stegen would be the most likely replacement.
Germany's tournament starts against Mexico in Moscow on 17 June. They will also face Sweden and South Korea in Group F.