Germany has traditionally been solid at the back and has produced some great goalkeepers in the world of football. Sepp Maier, Herald Schumacher, Bodo Illgner, Andreas Köpke, Oliver Kahn and Jens Lehmann, All of them produced moments of magic in German Football. Quite notably, the competition for the number one keeper for 2006 WC on home soil between Kahn and Lehmann only made both of them better keepers.
Now let us have a look at the keepers of the German National Team in the last international tournament (Euro 2012). Manuel Neuer was the number one, having won accolades all over the world and at the moment is one the best under the bar. Joachim Löw’s two backup choices were Ron-Robert Zieler and Marc-André-Stegen. Both of them are young and have made good impressions in the Bundesliga, but have yet to prove themselves on the international stage. Logically none of these two keepers stand a chance to compete with Neuer for the starting keeper spot for Brazil 2014.
The stellar form of Rene Adler this season in Bundesliga 2012-13 earned him a call to the National team for the international friendly against Netherlands. Even though he did not feature in the game, with his current form Adler can prove to be quite a competitor for the German number one keepe spot. Once Germany’s number one, Adler has just started his mission to earn it back.
Let’s rewind to 2008, After the Jens Lehmenn’s retirement and Robert Enke’s tragic suicide, it was Adler who emerged as the number one custodian under the bar, ahead of the likes of Tim Wiese and Manuel Neuer. A serious rib injury in April 2010 in a Bundesliga match against VFB Stuttgart, however, prevented Adler from playing in World Cup 2010 in South Africa. He had an average 2010-11 Bundesliga campaign with Leverkusen, but 2011-12 saw him fall behind Bernd Leno as the first choice keeper of Bayer Leverkusen. However since moving to Hamburger SV it has been a different story all together.
His heroics against champions Dortmund helped Hamburger SV earned their first win and point in the current Bundesliga season after suffering three consecutive defeats. In that game he pulled a string of impressive saves against a very strong Dortmund attack (Goetze-Reus-Blaszczykowski-Lewandowski). Even though Hamburger SV have been average this season but Rene Adler has been the outstanding. His performance in almost every game has been first class; sometimes he helped them win, sometimes he helped them salvage a point and at other times he’s saved them from humiliation. Hamburger SV have beaten both Dortmund and Schalke this season by 3-2 and 3-1 scores respectively while Adler has been pure class in both matches.
What differentiates Adler from other keepers are his reflexes and pin point goal kicks to midfielders. He has the ability to pull off impossible saves from close range with his superbly quick reactions. He is also very consistent performer and a good communicator to the back four. Zieler and Ter-Stegen both are very young and can be great goalkeepers in the future. For Joachim Löw’s 2014 Brazil mission, Neuer is still the number-one Adler is a close second. Hamburger SV’s relatively frail defence makes Adler more exposed to attack, thus more opportunity to prove himself. Of course the disadvantage is that Adler concedes more goals than Neuer, but his performance nonetheless demonstrates that Neuer is not the only world-class keeper in Germany right now.
However, football can sometimes be harsh to goalkeepers. While a coach can change formations to accommodate good players in defence, midfield or in attack, but there can only be one keeper saving your bar. Frequently we have seen great club keepers landing up in the bench in the national team. I remember Euro 2000, when Francesco Toldo seemed to be one of the finest keepers in the world but afterwards ended up being Italy’s backup due to the emergence of Gigi Buffon, one the best goalkeepers of his generation.
It will not be easy for Rene Adler to become the Germany number one keeper in the next one or two years. Manuel Neuer plays for one the best clubs in Europe and will have the opportunity to play big games in the Champions League with the Bavarian giants. Nevertheless, since his move to Hamburger, Rene Adler has been better than ever, and let’s not forget that Andreas Koepke played for very average Eintracht Frankfurt, during his time as Germany’s number one.
No matter who finishes ahead, Rene Adler has been a real winner with his amazing comeback, an inspiration to many forgotten footballers struggling to prove their worth for country/club.
<em>Header courtesy of bz-berlin.de & picture alliance / Pressefoto UL </em>