Germany’s new golden generation of footballers are not made up of just attacking players. With more managers putting their trust in young goalkeepers in Germany these days, several of them have been making a name for themselves over the last couple of seasons. Among them is 19 year old Bernd Leno, who in a matter of months has gone from the Stuttgart reserves to Champions League stardom. As a result, his future has been under much speculation considering he is on loan but after some tight lipped wrangling Bayer Leverkusen have finally wrapped up the deal and signed Leno on a permanent deal, adding yet another layer to an impressive foundation.
Bernd Leno was born in the Swabian city Bietigheim-Bissingen. His first steps as a footballer began with SV Germania Bietigheim and in the year 2003 he switched to VfB Stuttgart. There he played for several youth teams and was able to celebrate the U-17 championship in the season 2008/2009. That same year he also won the European Cup with Germany’s U-17. In the next season he made his debut for Stuttgart’s second team which was playing in the 3. Bundesliga. Fast forward another year and Leno signed his first contract as a professional footballer at the ripe age of 19. He started the 2011/2012 season as Stuttgart II’s first choice keeper and immediately grabbed everyone’s attention due to his outstanding play
More specifically, he grabbed the attention of the leading figures of Bayer 04 Leverkusen. The club was searching for an alternative because their number one keeper René Adler was injured and his replacements couldn’t live up to the necessary expectations. That is why Leno was loaned from Stuttgart to Leverkusen for half a year. Instead of playing against the likes of Oberhausen in the third league, he now played at the Stamford Bridge against Chelsea in the Champions League or Valencia, which so far, he admitted to knowing only from the Playstation.
First Bernd Leno was brought in as a temporary solution until Adler recovered but after a few cancelled contract negotiations with the former National Team keeper and the fact that Leno did his job perfectly week after week, Leverkusen reconsidered and were hoping to keep the young Swabian. Contract negotiations began and were stalling for several weeks. Stuttgart of course were holding the best cards . According to the contract Leno was only loaned until January. After this they would get back a more seasoned goalkeeper with of half a year in Bundesliga and several Champions League matches under his belt despite the fact that the Swabians wouldn’t really need him. They have Sven Ulreich who has done a formidable job so far this season, saving more shots than any other keeper in the league this year. If you have a look at the average grades the goalkeepers receive from German sports newspaper Kicker, you will find Bernd Leno in first position with Sven Ulreich right behind. Whereas Ulreich has played one game more than Leno in the Bundesliga.
Of course the leading figures of the Swabians never got tired of repeating that they would be looking forward to the rat-race coming up in January. They could reject two offers from Leverkusen instantly and Stuttgarts president Gerd Mäuser said in an interview they would only let go Bernd Leno when they received an offer that would get them dizzy. But a week ago the “Werkself” booked their ticket for the knock-out stage of the Champions League and so they could present an offer which one could not refuse to the Swabian side. As a result, Bernd Leno does not have to go back to Stuttgart during the winter and will be able to continue playing with Leverkusen in the Champions League. 7-8 million Euros is the speculated figure, a tidy sum considering Leno was just a reserve player some months back. It was indeed an offer they could not refuse.
“With Bernd Leno we have signed one of the most outstanding goalkeeping talents in Germany for a long time”, said Bayers director of sports Rudi Völler.
Fredi Bobic who is in charge of the sporting operations at Stuttgart spoke to the press, saying the following:
“Bernd (Leno) is a very talented keeper. That’s why it is hard for every one of us at VfBto let him go. He proved himself for one and a half years in the second team for bigger tasks and showed his qualities in the last four months at Leverkusen. Although he will leave us we have some excellent goalkeepers in our team. In the end it was a decision based on economic figures and we all can live with the outcome.”
Of course it was the best solution for both sides and everyone can be happy at the end of the day. Stuttgart does not have two first keepers and can be fully supportive of Sven Ulreich and the transfer fee they received. Bayer Leverkusen can do the same with Bernd Leno as it is unlikely that René Adler will renew with the “Werkself”. His contract runs out in the summer and it is highly probable that the former National Team keeper will leave Leverkusen come the end of the season.
Bernd Leno spoke about his new contract with Leverkusen too:
“I feel good being at Bayer (Leverkusen) and am thankful that the club gave me the opportunity to play Bundesliga and Champions League football. I also thank VfB Stuttgart for a very good time I had. I received a very good training there which allowed me to make this step now”.
Leno signed a contract with Bayer Leverkusen until the year 2017 und due to this transfer he is now the second most expensive signing in Bundesliga after only 13 games played. The most expensive signing of course is Manuel Neuer.
Photo courtesy of dpa.
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