No, he is not like Oliver Kahn. Or Jens Lehmann. And nothing at all like Toni Schumacher or Sepp Maier. All these top German goalkeepers from the past were extroverts whose emotions often ran high and who were not afraid to push the limits of accepted behaviour. Rene Adler is totally different.
The new No1 between the sticks for the Mannschaft is more the strong, silent type, and these qualities are proving invaluable for the 25-year-old from Bayer Leverkusen. First of all, he is under enormous pressure, having to follow in the footsteps of several generations of outstanding German keepers. He has also risen through the ranks incredibly quickly – a mere three-and-a-half years after making his Bundesliga debut, he will be the centre of attention at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™.
He has refused to let all the praise he has been receiving go to his head, and the inevitable criticism he has also come in for has also failed to knock him off track. Adler not only has great potential as a goalkeeper, he also has the mental fortitude required to play his position on the highest of international stages. Even when he suffered broken ribs last weekend, the lad from Leipzig refused to let it affect him. After all, there is plenty of time for him to make a full recovery before the FIFA World Cup starts, so calm and poise remained the order of the day despite the potential for wailing and gnashing of teeth.
"It was a dream come true for me to play internationals for Germany," said Adler in an exclusive interview with FIFA.com. "Every match gives me more international experience, and I always learn from them, win lose or draw. I haven't been hyped up like a pop star or anything like that. There was plenty written about me, but I'm intelligent enough to take it for what it is worth." Incredible maturity from a player who has a mere nine caps under his belt.
His incredible reflexes and amazing ability to read situations early and snuff out danger even outside his area are what has made Adler a hit with German coach Joachim Low. At a time when the country was looking for a young, up-and-coming keeper to take over where Kahn and Lehmann had left off, the 1.91-metre Adler stepped up to the plate, winning over fans and pundits alike.
The time was ripe for Adler to burst onto the scene during the FIFA World Cup qualifiers. The Leverkusen keeper was the man of the moment in the two victories over Russia that were as closely fought as they were crucial, keeping Andrei Arshavin and Co at bay with some spectacular glove-work. His coolness despite his relative lack of experience was perhaps the most pleasant surprise of all. "He withstood a great deal of pressure against Russia," said Germany's goalkeeping coach Andreas Kopke, who himself is yet another of Adler's illustrious predecessors.
Though Adler conceded only two goals in the five qualifiers he played in, the keeper suddenly began to show unusual signs of weakness once Low confirmed him as Germany's new No1 in early March 2010. This meant the names of Schalke's Manuel Neuer and Werder Bremen's Tim Wiese were soon being bandied about by the media as alternatives.
"Obviously Adler mustn’t make any more mistakes, or the whole debate will reopen. But if he keeps making the saves we’re used to seeing from him, the debate will soon die down. And as it happens, this particular debate involves some very good candidates," Kahn recently said exclusively to FIFA.com.
Adler's reaction to all this fuss was typical of the 25-year-old. "I'm not yet focusing primarily on the tournament. What is most important for me is that I play well in the Bundesliga." And before that, he needs to get over his broken ribs. But despite being a different kettle of fish to some of his iconic predecessors with the three-time world champions, German football fans are confident they will have a potential world-class custodian as their last line of defence come South Africa 2010.