Mark Flekken has been integral to Freiburg's European push, earning himself a first Netherlands cap under Louis van Gaal as reward.
bundesliga.com looks at the 28-year-old keeping Freiburg near the very top of the Bundesliga table…
Country: Netherlands (1 cap)
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, initially 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 nine clean sheets after 29 league matches in 2021/22, and his 90 saves have only been bettered by four other goalies in the league. A maiden senior international call-up came in October 2021 and Flekken has been on the bench for four Netherlands matches since. He eventually made his international debut against Denmark on Saturday 26 March, lasting the entire 90 minutes of his country's 4-2 victory.
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
"It was quite unexpected actually, how it all came about. From the moment the national coach put my name in his mouth, to the moment I am standing here, it has flown by so quickly. I have no words for it, it's so beautiful. It's a dream come true." - Flekken on his first call-up
10 things on Kevin Trapp
From a devilish breakout to winning the Europa League, here's what you need to know about the Frankfurt goalkeeper.
Who is Rafael Santos Borre?
Get to know Frankfurt's goal-broker - from making history at River Plate to lifting the Europa League title...
Magath torn between Hamburg past and Hertha present
Felix Magath is a legend in Hamburg, but is now plotting to deny them promotion as coach of Hertha Berlin.