60 years of Bundesliga

Jens Lehmann, a goalkeeping legend at home and abroad


An Arsenal Invincible, Jens Lehmann also starred on both sides of the Revierderby divide and was Germany No.1 for a time - in Oliver Kahn's era!

Born in Essen on 10 November 1969, Lehmann first made his name with local club Schalke, signing with Die Königsblauen at 17 and making his senior professional debut in Bundesliga 2 a year later.

By 20, he had become Schalke's No.1, and he helped them back into the Bundesliga in 1991, conceding just 25 goals in the preceding 34-game season. 

As well as inspiring his side to UEFA Cup glory in 1997, Lehmann was a cult hero in Gelsenkirchen. Over a decade in their first team he kept 105 clean sheets in 363 games - as well as scoring two goals!

The second of those was a last-minute equaliser against Revierderby rivals Borussia Dortmund in December 1997, when he became the first goalkeeper ever to score from open play after a corner eventually fell to him at the back post to head home.

He was a hero when he left for AC Milan in 1998, but a pariah when he came back to Germany just six months later, joining Schalke's great rivals Dortmund.

Neither those of a Royal Blue nor Black and Yellow persuasion were pleased to see him in Borussia colours at first, but he eventually won the latter round, keeping 17 clean sheets in 34 games as Dortmund won the Bundesliga and finished as UEFA Cup runners-up in 2002. 

Watch: Lehmann's top five saves

At the end of that season, Lehmann went to the FIFA World Cup in Japan and South Korea as Kahn's understudy, and could only watch on as the Bayern Munich great backstopped Germany's run to the final, which they lost to Brazil, with Kahn winning that year's Golden Ball as the competition's best player.

"I don't think I'm given the right respect in Germany," Lehmann lamented a year later. "My bad luck is that I'm only No.2 in the national team. I think I should be playing. I've developed in a very good way. I perform better these days than Germany's No.1."

By this time well on the way to being an Arsenal Invincible, Lehmann arguably had a point. Lehmann had left Dortmund for the Gunners in the summer of 2003, and by the end of his first season had helped them win the Premier League without suffering a single defeat. Lehmann played every game.

Janes Lehmann (l.) was central to Arsenal's 'Invincibles' season in 2004. - IMAGO / PanoramiC

Over five years at Highbury - and then the Emirates - Lehmann was also a UEFA Champions League runner up in 2006. Sent off in the final for a foul on Barcelona's Samuel Eto'o, he was nonetheless named the competition's Goalkeeper of the Year having gone a record 853 minutes without conceding on the run to the final.

That was the year he finally, and definitively, overtook Kahn as Germany's No.1, in time for the World Cup on home soil. Germany lost to eventual winners Italy in the semi-finals, but Lehmann's heroics in the quarters against Argentina will live long in the memory.

Germany beat Argentina 4-2 on penalties after a 1-1 draw in Berlin. Lehmann guessed right for all four of Argentina's spot-kicks and saved two - from Roberto Ayala and Esteban Cambiasso. He had gamed the opposition checking a note of paper for their takers' tendencies. It later emerged Cambiasso's details weren't even on it.

Friends at last: Oliver Kahn's (l.) respect was earned in 2006. - Bongarts/Getty Images

Even Kahn was impressed. "Jens Lehmann's games in the national team were impeccable," he said, without a hint of sarcasm.

Lehman gradually lost his No.1 spots for club and country to Manuel Almunia and back to Kahn, respectively, before winding down his playing career back in the Bundesliga with VfB Stuttgart.

He hung up his gloves in 2008 - making a brief return to Arsenal in 2011 - and has since been goalkeeper coach at the Gunners, assistant manager at Augsburg and on the board with Hertha Berlin, in amongst his TV and Official Bundesliga Legend obligations.

But at his peak as a player, few shone brighter than Lehmann.

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