Matěj Kovář (r.) could be rubbing shoulders with Jeremie Frimpong (l.) and Odilon Kossounou (c.) in the Bundesliga on an increasingly regular basis. - © DFL/GettyImages/Christian Kaspar-Bartke
Matěj Kovář (r.) could be rubbing shoulders with Jeremie Frimpong (l.) and Odilon Kossounou (c.) in the Bundesliga on an increasingly regular basis. - © DFL/GettyImages/Christian Kaspar-Bartke

Matěj Kovář: Who is the former Manchester United man looking to dislodge Lukáš Hrádecký at Bayer Leverkusen?


Matěj Kovář was handed a surprise Bundesliga debut at Lukáš Hrádecký's expense for Bayer Leverkusen against Borussia Mönchengladbach on Saturday, but what else is there to know about the former Manchester United goalkeeper?

Data correct as of 28 January 2024

Matěj Kovář

Age: 23 (born 17 May 2000)
Club: Bayer Leverkusen
Position: Goalkeeper
Country: Czech Republic (capped to U21 level) 

Key stats and facts 

Kovář replaced Hrádecký as Leverkusen drew 0-0 with Gladbach, and while the league leaders might have been disappointed to have drawn a blank, the Czech will be pleased with the job he did, making three saves on the way to a clean sheet.

Whilst it was Kovář's first Bundesliga start, he has also been Leverkusen's 'cup goalkeeper' this season, starting seven games across the UEFA Europa League and DFB Cup, keeping three clean sheets in the former competition.

Watch: Highlights of Leverkusen's draw with Gladbach

Kovář joined Leverkusen from Man Utd last summer, having been scouted by the record English champions as a hulking 17-year-old who would soon fill out his 6'5" frame back in 2018 - the year he first made his youth international debut with the Czech Republic, with whom he is now capped up to U21 level.

With David De Gea having the Old Trafford No.1 spot under lock and key for most of his spell there, Kovar had spent the previous three seasons on loan, at Swindon, Burton Albion, and back in his homeland with Sparta Prague.

He won the Czech First League last season, with eight shut-outs from his 23 games and, perhaps more impressively, keeping out nearly 96 per cent of the shots on his goal - a number higher than any other goalkeeper in Europe. Leverkusen did well to move for him when they did.

Plays a bit like: Jiří Pavlenka

Petr Cech is the goalkeeping archetype that most young Czechs in the position aspire to, but Werder Bremen's Jiří Pavlenka is another of their compatriots with whom Kovář shares similar traits: a huge wing-span, bravery in one-on-ones, and a knack for saving penalties - stopping eight of the 17 spot-kicks he has faced in his career so far.

Did you know?

Kovář may be at the start of his career and, at 23, a relative youth as a goalkeeper, but he has already helped himself to some silverware.

He backstopped Man Utd's U18s win that level's Premier League National title in his first season in England, and, in the same age group as Gladbach's Tomáš Čvančara and David Jurásek, who recently joined Hoffenheim on loan from Benfica, has come close with the Czech Republic, who were among the favourites for the U19 Euros that were cancelled in due to COVID in 2020.

As well as his league win with Sparta last term, Kovář was voted the Goalkeeper of the Season, and with him now pushing Hrádecký, might Bayer finally shake their unwanted 'Neverkusen' tag?

"Shall we swap competitions, Lukáš?" - Kovář (l.) got his first Bundesliga start at Hrádecký's (r.) expense recently. - IMAGO/Weis/TEAM2sportphoto

What they're saying

"The summer was hectic and stressful. From 31 May I wasn't sure where I was going to play, but of all the options that arrived, Leverkusen's was the best way. My first impressions are great. It's a big club and the next step in my career." -  Kovář on joining Leverkusen last summer

"Since the start of the Europa League we said we'd decide things game to game. There's competition for places, and every game he shows he has the requisite level. He can be an option. So far, Matěj has played in the Cup and Europa League, Lukáš in the Bundesliga, but nothing's set in stone." - Bayer head coach Xabi Alonso teasing future starts for Kovář

"I'd probably describe myself as a calm goalkeeper, good on the ball. I'm not bad on the line either. I like to dominate in the box and go for crosses [but] I'd single out my footwork as the biggest advantage." - Kovář on his game