Adler Junior 100

Adler Gets Ballack Backing

Ever since it became clear that Jens Lehmann was to hang up his gloves in international football the debate has been raging as to his ultimate successor. One player who is many people’s choice as the heir-apparent is Rene Adler and he looks set to be handed his debut against Russia in Germany’s forthcoming World Cup qualifier.

Adler was born in the East German city of Leipzig on 15th January 1985 four years before the fall of the Berlin Wall and five before the eventual reunification of Germany in 1990. He made his way into the youth set-up at VfB Leipzig as young as six years old and would remain there for nine years developing into a fine goalkeeper.

At the age of 15, he began to attract the attention of a number of clubs some of whom were from abroad. In August 1999, Adler was playing for VfB Leipzig in the Junior Regionalliga. He received an offer from the Saxony FA to join a German FA trial in Berlin where the Saxony team finished third in a tournament they organised.

There were numerous scouts and representatives there from various national and international clubs and Adler received a number of approaches. One of the clubs reported to have made an enquiry were Manchester United, but the 15 year old Adler decided it would be best for him to remain in Germany and he opted to take up the offer to join the Bayer Leverkusen youth set-up.

Young players at Leverkusen were normally housed with guest families to make their move to the club easier on them, but when Adler arrived all such families were full, so he was taken in by goalkeeping trainer Rüdiger Vollborn, who himself had made over 400 Bundesliga appearances for the Werkself.

Adler was taken into his family and learnt a lot from the former keeper, who acted as a trainer, surrogate father and friend to the youngster as he started his apprenticeship at the club. He made his way into the Regionalliga team in 2002 and was then promoted to the Bundesliga squad for the start of the 2003/04 season as back up to first-choice keeper Hans-Jörg Butt.

The young keeper had to patiently wait for his chance to make his full debut for the Werkself in the German top flight. At the start of May 2006 he suffered a broken rib in training, which required an operation to insert a titanium plate into the rib to strengthen it. He was out of action until February 2007 and there were genuine fears that he may not play again.

However, he didn’t have to wait long for his chance following his recovery when then trainer Michael Skibbe handed him his Bundesliga debut against Schalke on February 25 2007 due to regular keeper Hans-Jörg Butt being suspended.

The match in the Arena Auf Schalke was to turn out to be a day to remember for Adler as he put in a superb performance, pulling off some fabulous saves to have everybody talking about him after the game. Leverkusen won 1-0 with Kießling scoring the goal, but the real match-winner was the 22 year old Adler.

Some weeks earlier Schalke’s Manuel Neuer had enjoyed a similarly impressive debut and the talk was of the duo becoming the bright new hopes of German goalkeeping. Adler kept his place between the posts for the remainder of the season and was voted Bundesliga ‘Player of the Month’ for March 2007.

The following season, 2007/08, Adler became the undisputed number one at the Bay-Arena with Butt having activated a clause in his contract that allowed him to leave should he not make a sufficient number of appearances. Once again Adler was in majestic form throughout the season often being the difference between Bayer dropping points and not.

The only disappointment was the fact that the side slumped towards the end of the season and failed to qualify for Europe.

International Career

Adler has played for and captained his country at U-17, U-18, and U-21 level. In 2004 trainer Dieter Eilts called Adler into the U-19 squad for the European Championships in Switzerland and a year later he made it to the quarter finals of the U-20 World Cup in Brazil.

He was voted the ‘Best Keeper’ at both tournaments and reportedly received an offer from Arsenal following the U-20 World Cup.

His performances for Leverkusen over his season and a half as number one earned him a surprise call up to the German squad for the European Championship in Austria/ Switzerland, with Timo Hildebrand the man to lose out.

Even though Adler remained unused during Euro 2008, the fact that he was at the tournament meant he could get used to the international environment, and experience for the first time something which he will have to get more than used to if he fulfils the prophecy of ultimately becoming Germany’s No1.

He now looks to be handed his big chance with the national team following injury to Robert Enke, who has been in goal for all of Germany’s post Euro 2008 matches.

Did You Know?

Alder’s brother is also a goalkeeper and his father was a midfielder. All three have played for their home town club of SV Liebertwolkwitz.

Name: Rene Adler

Date of Birth: 15/01/1985

Place of Birth: Leipzig, East Germany

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