Mark Flekken has been integral to Freiburg's best-ever start to a Bundesliga season, earning himself his first call-up to Louis van Gaal's Netherlands team as reward.
bundesliga.com looks at the 28-year-old keeping Freiburg near the very top of the Bundesliga table…
Country: Netherlands (uncapped)
Flekken hails from Kerkrade, Netherlands, a town literally on the border to Germany. After playing his youth football for local team Roda JC, Flekken crossed the border to join Alemannia Aachen. He gained experience in 3. Liga, before furthering his development in an understudy role at Bundesliga 2 outfit Greuther Fürth.
Flekken got his big break at Duisburg, though, helping them finish top of 3. Liga and win promotion with his 15 clean sheets in 37 league matches. The following campaign, he recorded nine shut-outs in 31 Bundesliga 2 outings as the Zebras finished seventh.
Freiburg duly swooped, initally signing Flekken as a back-up for Alexander Schwolow. An elbow injury derailed his 2019/20 season, but he was involved in the final three matches of 2020/21, a 2-2 draw against record champions Bayern Munich among them.
Following Schwolow's transfer to Hertha Berlin, Flekken has become Freiburg's undisputed No.1. He's recorded three clean sheets seven matches into 2021/22, and boasts the best saves-to-shots ratio in the division (82.1 percent). A maiden international cap with the Netherlands could come sooner rather than later.
Plays a bit like: Edwin van der Sar
It's pretty clear that Flekken paid partcicularly close attention to legendary Dutch goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar in his youth. The Freiburg No.1 is calmness personified and boasts an excellent reading of the game and razor-sharp reflexes.
Did you know?
Remember that annoying FIFA glitch where goalkeepers would get stuck in the net? In his Duisburg days, Flekken inadvertently re-enacted the in-game fault in a real live match.
Completely unaware his side had just had a goal ruled out, he went to take a sip from the water bottle placed inside his goal. The next minute, with celebratory music still blaring out, Stefan Kutschke received a quick free-kick and scored with Flekken seemingly glued to the spot behind his goal-line.
"In future games, I won't put my bottle in the goal," Flekken joked at full-time, having atoned with a penalty save from Kutschke in a 2-1 win.
Watch: Mark Flekken's uncharacteristic short circuit
What they're saying
"He’s done good things in the Bundesliga, and I want to see him close up to get a better understanding of his qualities." - Van Gaal after calling up Flekken for 20222 FIFA World Cup qualifiers against Latvia and Gibraltar
"It was clear that Flekki would one day be in net for us. He is a really good goalkeeper; he exudes an excellent presence, is a good guy, and has tons of potential." - Freiburg coach Christian Streich