A good goalkeeper is worth his weight in gold. No other player boasts the same ability to stave off defeat or salvage a victory. By comparison, a missed half-chance or a misplaced pass in midfield are of little consequence compared to a costly howler from the man between the sticks.
The German national team has enjoyed more than its fair share of outstanding shot-stoppers down the years. The likes of Sepp Maier, Toni Schumacher, Oliver Kahn, Bodo Illgner and Jens Lehmann rate as master craftsmen of their trade. The three-time FIFA World Cup™ winners have never struggled to unearth great goalkeeping talent, with Rene Adler, elevated to number one status for the Mannschaft a few months ago, being merely the latest example of this enduring phenomenon.
In his first handful of full international appearances, the Leipzig-born 24-year-old displayed all his considerable class. Adler posted a storming debut, ensuring Germany held on for a 2-1 FIFA World Cup qualifying victory over Russia, and has subsequently added three further caps to his collection. FIFA.com spoke exclusively to the Bayer Leverkusen keeper about his recent progress, his dreams of FIFA World Cup glory, and Germany’s glittering roll of goalkeeping honour.
FIFA.com: It’s been an exciting few months for you. You travelled to UEFA EURO 2008 as No3 keeper, before making your full international debut in October. You’ve now earned a total of four caps. What’s your assessment of recent developments in your career?
Rene Adler: It goes without saying that earning full international honours is a dream come true. Every game means more international experience. I always learn something new, regardless of whether we win or lose.
How has your life changed since you became Germany goalkeeper?
I’d say everything’s basically just as normal as it always was. It’s not as if I was hyped like a pop star. Obviously, there were lots of stories in the papers, but I’m intelligent enough to put that in its proper place. I’ve also deliberately tried to stay out of the public gaze. I’ve always said I don’t need to see my name in the papers every day, and that continues to be the case.
You talked about normality. What does that mean?
(Laughs) Obviously, now I’m an international, and especially after the Russia game, a few things did change. If I’m out for a walk or whatever, I’m obviously recognised more often than before. But like I say, it’s all still fairly normal. It’s part of the job, and it’s by no means irritating or problematic.
Sepp Maier, Oliver Kahn and Jens Lehmann are just three in a long line of German goalkeeping greats. Are you the latest?
With me, it’s always been the case that I look forward to every game I’m privileged enough to play for the national team. I give everything I have in every match, and it’ll remain that way in the future. However, it’s a fact that Germany has had any number of good goalkeepers who are also huge characters, but I don’t count myself among their number yet.
In FIFA World Cup qualifying, Germany are top of their group by four points from Russia and Wales, but have played a game more and still have to travel to both major rivals. Should German fans be concerned?
We certainly have a few tough challenges ahead before we can talk about South Africa in 2010. However, I reckon we’ll be there next year.
Are the players already thinking about South Africa?
That’s why we’re in the qualifying competition. Obviously we’re thinking about it, it’s our target as a team.
Will you be the No1 keeper in South Africa next year?
That’s all up in the air. The coach has initiated a battle for places, so I reckon the question of who gets to play isn’t decided. It’s not yet time to talk about who should step into the void, or even who’s the definite first-choice.
What are your goals with Bayer Leverkusen in 2009?
Provided we keep up the hard work, we stand a very decent chance of being there or thereabouts at the end of the season. The most important games are the ones against supposedly weaker opposition. Those are the ones you have to win. Also, the fact we’re not in the UEFA Champions League or the UEFA Cup is actually helpful at the moment. We’re nicely relaxed and rested as we approach our weekend fixtures.
And what about the national team?
Everything the national team does is geared towards next year’s World Cup. We played a lot of games in 2008, and we have some vital matches in 2009. We’ll be together as a squad for quite a long time when we tour Asia in the summer, so we’ll definitely be in good shape for the qualifying run-in. And, if we do make it to South Africa, we’ll be well prepared for the summer of 2010.