Yann Sommer, Manuel Neuer and the battle to be the Bundesliga's No.1 goalkeeper
Yann Sommer set a new record for the most saves in a single Bundesliga fixture with a heroic display against Bayern Munich on Matchday 4, but how does the Swiss stopper compare when held up against the rest of the 'Keepers' Union in Germany and its long-term figurehead, Manuel Neuer?
Sommer's performance on week four made headlines around the world as the custodian made 19 astonishing saves to fend off the Bayern barrage of attacks.
His first to deny Dayot Upamecano was a flying one-handed piece of magic that showcased Sommer's cat-like agility, his double to thwart Sadio Mane proved the 34-year-old's reflexes are still razor sharp, while time and again the Gladbach gloveman repelled his opponents thanks to expert positioning and assured handling. All-in-all, it was a goalkeeping masterclass.
“He’s the best in the world,” hailed USA international Joe Scally after the game.
Watch: Analysing Sommer's record-breaking heroics in Munich
“Every game we just expect it from him because we know he’s the best goalie. He gives the defence so much confidence, he gives the team confidence because we know that if something happens then he’s there to save us. He's just unbelievable.”
Head coach Daniel Farke went on to describe Sommer's performance as "world-class" and few would dare suggest otherwise.
Scally's claim that Sommer is the best in the world, however, requires further scrutiny as the goalkeeper himself would suggest the long-term net-minder at the Allianz Arena rightly wears that crown.
"He's a goalkeeper who has earned a reputation as one of the best in the world in recent years," Sommer told bundesliga.com of counterpart Neuer in 2021.
"For years he has played at a high level. He's a goalkeeper who is very consistent, which I think is significant. If I look at another goalkeeper, he has been consistently at a high level for years, a goalkeeper with plenty of quality, who is happy to play with the ball, has good feet and offers a lot to the team."
There is no hiding from Neuer's pedigree - a goalkeeper who redefined the position, who has more Bundesliga clean sheets than any other player and has won everything there is to in football.
But there is now a cast of characters coming for the Germany and Bayern captain's throne, with Sommer - who Neuer has put in the world-class bracket previously - and RB Leipzig's Peter Gulacsi possibly the most persistent challengers in recent years.
It was Sommer (131) who made more saves than any other player in 2021/22 and he also topped the charts in 2019/20. He has saved 74 percent of opponents' shots on goal after 15 games of the current season - exactly the same tally as Neuer.
Watch: Neuer rewriting the history books
Gulacsi, meanwhile, has accumulated 53 clean sheets in 137 games (one every 2.58 matches) since the start of the 2018/19 Bundesliga campaign, compared to 49 in 132 (one in 2.69) for Neuer and 35 in 142 (one in 4.01) for Sommer.
Leipzig have also conceded just 156 times in the top flight since then, compared to Bayern's 158 during the same period as they've established themselves as having the leanest defence in the division.
Also emerging to lay their claim as the Bundesliga's number one, No.1 are the likes of Hoffenheim 'keeper Oliver Baumann, Freiburg's Mark Flekken, Gregor Kobel of Borussia Dortmund, and the resurgent Kevin Trapp at Eintracht Frankfurt.
TSG stalwart Baumann collected back-to-back clean sheets on matchdays 3 and 4 en route to going over 250 minutes without conceding, while it's Flekken that leads the charts after Matchday 15, with shutouts in eight games in 2022/23.
Flekken - who had the league's best save percentage of 74 last season - has stopped 70 percent so far this term and sits fifth on the list.
Frankfurt have shipped a fair few thus far to put a dent in Trapp's figures, but this is Germany's third-choice goalkeeper and a man that became an Eintracht hero last season by denying Aaron Ramsey in the penalty shootout of last season's UEFA Europa League final.
Speaking of penalties, it's Bochum's Manuel Riemann who leads the way with two saves from 12 yards this season, while Baumann has faced more Bundesliga spot-kicks than any other keeper currently in the league (55) and just Wolfsburg's Koen Casteels (12) has saved more than his 10.
And none of the above has mentioned the presence of Bayer Leverkusen and Finland captain Lukas Hradecky, Werder Bremen's Czech Republic international Jiri Pavlenka, or Danish duo Oliver Christensen and Frederik Ronnow at the respective Berlin clubs.
It may well make the Bundesliga's Keeper's Union the strongest collective on the planet.
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