If Germany has a reputation for producing more than its fair share of top-class goalkeepers, Schalke is the country's sweetspot, with the likes of Manuel Neuer, Jens Lehmann, Oliver Reck and Frank Rost all forged in the Royal Blues' talent mine. And in Alexander Nübel, they now appear to have unearthed another gem.
bundesliga.com has taken a closer look at the next man filling Neuer's gloves in Gelsenkirchen…
Country: Germany (12 U21 international caps)
Perhaps you're thinking comparisons to Neuer, who emerged over a decade ago now, are premature. Think again. The 6'4" stopper has taken his challenge for Ralf Fährmann's number one jersey to the next level in 2019.
He made his Bundesliga debut on Matchday 34 of the 2015/16 season in a 4-1 win over Hoffenheim at the age of just 19. Nübel had two wait another two years for his next top-flight outing, but was ready when he received the call, keeping a clean sheet against Eintracht Frankfurt on the last day of the 2017/18 season.
Former coach Domenico Tedesco sprung a surprise at the start of the second half of the season by naming Nübel in his side to face Wolfsburg, leaving club captain Fährmann on the bench. The Paderborn native has only missed two games since through suspension, keeping three potentially priceless clean sheets and saving a Bundesliga penalty at the fourth attempt in a game against Nuremberg for a Schalke side fighting for their Bundesliga lives towards the foot of the table.
Plays a bit like: Manuel Neuer
His surprise promotion is another indication the Germany youth international is treading a similar path to Neuer, who stood in for Rost on a handful of occasions before being promoted to number one midway through the 2006/07 season.
When Nübel played for Paderborn's youth team, his teammates nicknamed him 'Manuel' because he reminded them of Neuer, and the similarities do not end there either. In his first six Bundesliga appearances, he saved 80 per cent of the shots on his goal and conceded just four goals – the very same stats as his predecessor.
Throw in a UEFA Champions League debut in one of the most intimidating of venues – Galatasaray's Ali Sami Yen Spor Kompleksi, in which he kept a clean sheet and oozed composure – and you can see why such lofty comparisons are being made.
Did you know?
Nübel's not only a great goalkeeper – he's pretty nifty with his feet, too. In fact, he was an outfield player up to U14 level. In fact, when he left TSV Tudorf to join Paderborn, the East Westphalian club thought they were acquiring a striker, since that is the position he had filled at his first youth club. He was then transformed into a holding midfielder before Paderborn and the player decided the two-footed talent was also pretty good with his hands, and converted him to a goalkeeper.
What they're saying
"Alex was always better with his feet than many of our outfield players – when you had Alex on your team, that was half the job done – you knew you could always pass the ball to him. I can imagine seeing him as Germany number one in future." – former teammate at SC Paderborn Eric Kroll
"He's a new-generation goalkeeper and one of the best German goalkeepers around. That's why the sky's the limit for him." – Markus Krösche, who coached him at Paderborn in 2014/15
"Hats off to Alex, he kept us in the game with some massive saves. I won't be changing goalkeepers. I pick the best players." - caretaker Schalke coach Huub Stevens following Nübel's heroics in the 1-0 win against rock bottom Hannover
"Alex is one of the most talented up-and-coming goalkeepers Germany ever had. He might not be under the spotlight much yet, but he will be soon – I can promise." – Schalke goalkeeper Fährmann
"You can only speak highly of Alex – he's an incredibly talented goalkeeper, with the world at his feet. He's got an extraordinary footballing ability, but he's also very down to earth and is a great lad." – Klaus Thomforde, Germany's U21 goalkeeper coach