Pellegrino Matarazzo and Julian Nagelsmann are but two of Gregor Kobel’s admirers - opposition forwards less so. bundesliga.com has the lowdown on VfB Stuttgart’s formidable first-choice goalkeeper…
Club: VfB Stuttgart
Country: Switzerland (25 U17-U21 caps)
Kobel played youth football for Grasshopper Club Zurich, but earned his senior breakthrough in Germany. The 6'4" custodian joined Hoffenheim at just 16, signing pro terms three years later. He made 22 U19s, 43 reserve and six senior appearances for Die Kraichgauer between August 2014 and January 2019, keeping a clean sheet on his first-team debut in the 2017/18 DFB Cup first round. Following a successful six-month loan to Bundesliga rivals Augsburg, where he earned 16 consecutive starts during the 2018/19 Rückrunde, the Switzerland U21 international was snapped up by relegated Stuttgart.
Kobel recorded 10 shut-outs in 31 league appearances as Stuttgart roared back to the big time as Bundesliga 2 runners-up in 2019/20. The three-time Bundesliga winners duly kitted him out with a permanent contract through to 30 June 2024, with their faith in Oliver Baumann's former Hoffenheim understudy proving fully vindicated. The naturally right-footed Kobel has played every minute in the Bundesliga in 2020/21, keeping five clean sheets up to and including Matchday 31, whilst saving two of six penalties faced - from Emil Forsberg (RB Leipzig) and Nabil Bentaleb (Schalke). He ranks eighth league-wide for shots saved, on 67 per cent.
Plays a bit like: Koen Casteels
From one of the Bundesliga's best goalkeepers not named Manuel Neuer to another, Kobel has a lot in common with Wolfsburg counterpart Koen Casteels. He has the go-go-gadget limbs and spring-loaded reflexes of the Belgian, as well as the imposing frame to give incoming forwards the heebie-jeebies. The future Switzerland No.1 is pretty handy with his feet, too.
Did you know?
Kobel has his father partly to thank for his all-round athleticism.
Peter Kobel earned his keep as a professional ice hockey player and - despite "proudly encouraging Gregor to move to the Hoffenheim academy" - admits it took him a while to get his head around his son’s career choice.
"He was hell-bent on playing football and becoming a goalkeeper," Kobel senior recalled. "As an ice hockey forward, that made no sense to me!"
What they’re saying
"He’s a player who does the team the power of good, not just with his goalkeeping but his personality, too. He’s an extremely driven athlete, and a monster of a goalkeeper!" - Stuttgart head coach Matarazzo
Watch: Gregor Kobel discusses his physical attributes
"He’s a top quality player and is very focussed on improving his game." - Stuttgart sporting director Sven Mislintat
"As well as being a real talent, he’s mentally strong, inquisitive and willing to learn." - Kobel’s former goalkeeper coach at Hoffenheim, Michael Rechner