Despite being signed by European giants Manchester United at a young age, it was only when Ron-Robert Zieler moved back to Germany that he began fulfilling his true potential. Since then the goalkeeper has gone on to establish himself as one of the best in the Bundesliga - as well as claiming a berth in the senior Germany squad.
The Cologne native knew what he wanted to do from an early age and spent ten years playing his way through the youth ranks at 1. FC Köln before the English record titleholders snapped him up as a 16-year-old. However, operating as United's third-choice keeper behind Edwin van der Sar, his time in England was blighted by injuries and set-backs.
"He's a wonderful boy, very professional. He was unfortunate with Manchester United," said Sir Alex Ferguson upon letting Zieler leave the Red Devils to join the Reds from Hanover on a free transfer.
"You can't plan a football career like that. Every step I took was important including Köln, as well as Manchester and now Hannover," Zieler noted in an interview with the official German FA (DFB) website. It was here, as part of Mirko Slomka's fast-improving 96ers, that the keeper transitioned from being an emerging prospect to a recognised top-level performer between the sticks.
Zieler is now one of the lead figures in a group of outstanding young German keepers. His impressive form for the Reds resulted in Germany head coach Joachim Löw calling him up for the first time in November 2011 for a friendly against Ukraine (3-3): "I was given the chances and I took full advantage of them."