It's seven years since former Bayer Leverkusen head coach Robin Dutt talked up goalkeeper Bernd Leno as being "in the same league as Petr Cech". As it turns out, he was right - literally. shines a light on the cat-like reflexes of the Germany international shot-stopper...

1) Stuttgart's one that got away

A product of VfB Stuttgart's vaunted football academy - fertile breeding ground that spawned the likes of FIFA World Cup winner Sami Khedira and RB Leipzig striker Timo Werner - Leno was promoted to the first team in 2011, aged just 19. Die Schwaben shipped him out, initially on a six-month loan, to Leverkusen at the start of the 2011/12 season, but - unlucky for them - he never came back.

Watch: Leno answers YOUR questions in the TagHeuer 60-second challenge

2) Fast tracked to the top

Less than a week after making the switch to the BayArena, Leno was thrust into the Bundesliga spotlight against Werder Bremen. He became only the third goalkeeper in Bundesliga history to keep clean sheets in his first three top-flight games, and the youngest ever to play in the UEFA Champions League (19 years and 193 days) in a 2-0 defeat to English Premier League side Chelsea.

3) Alias Börnd Lino

Leno was such an unknown quantity when he made his Champions League bow back in September 2011, the majority of the Chelsea dressing room reportedly took to calling the young pup 'Börnd Lino'. Safe to say the Blues knew exactly who he was come full-time in the reverse fixture: a 2-1 defeat that saw Bayer pip the west London outfit to top spot in Group E.

Leno (blue shirt) made his Bundesliga debut for a Leverkusen side captained by Michael Ballack (3.l.). © imago

4) A Bundesliga ever-present

Nowadays, Leno is as much a part of the Leverkusen furniture as the Bayer pharmaceuticals factory that forged the Rhineland club. The Bietigheim-Bissingen native has already surpassed 220 Bundesliga appearances, missing just four league games in his first six full seasons as guardian of the BayArena. To put that into context, not a single Bundesliga keeper has played more games in that time - not even Bayern Munich and Germany No.1 Manuel Neuer.

5) World Cup ambition

Leno watched on from his armchair with self-professed admiration as Neuer's super-human displays provided the foundation for Germany's 2014 World Cup triumph in Brazil. Fast forward four years, and the former Under-17, U-18, U-19 and U-21 international is firmly in the hat to go to Russia, having earned six senior caps in the last 18 months alone.

"I hope Manuel Neuer is fit for the World Cup - he's a great guy and the undisputed No.1," Leno told SPORT BILD. "Marc-Andre ter Stegen is next, I think, but the race to be third-choice goalkeeper is wide open. Although there's a lot of speculation, [head coach] Joachim Löw and [goalkeeping coach] Andreas Köpke know what I bring to the table, and they know me as a person. I always perform."

Leno is a front-runner to go to the 2018 World Cup as part of Germany's goalkeeping contingent. © gettyimages / Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts

6) In the Casillas mould

A commanding presence on the pitch, a shy and retiring type off it: sounds a lot like Spain legend Iker Casillas.

"I used to watch a lot of Casillas growing up," 26-year-old Leno recalled of his role model between the posts. "He's perhaps peaked now, but he won it all and has been unbelievably consistent. He's calm and no-nonsense, I'm the same. I don't have to make a show of myself to stand out."

7) A Real gamer

Leno's respect for Casillas was reflected in his choice of team on the FIFA gaming series.

"I always used to play as Real Madrid," he said. "Casillas was a big reason for that, but Real were the team I supported growing up. As a kid, I often dreamed of playing for them, taking over from Casillas."

As a youngster, Leno took his lead from Real Madrid icon Iker Casillas (c.), curently of Porto.

8) How to… save a penalty

He learnt a lot from one of Spain's greatest goalkeepers, but Leno could still teach Casillas a thing or two about saving penalties. The Leverkusen glovesman stopped five out of eight Bundesliga spot-kicks back in 2013/14, including four in a row. Only the late Thomas Zander (1860 Munich) has repelled more in succession (six).

"I suppose it's like scoring a goal if you're a striker," Leno explained, having so far foiled Levan Kobiashvilli, Sejad Salihovic, Jakub Blaszczykowski, Jonathan Schmid, Roberto Firmino, Joselu, Ricardo Rodriguez, Szabolcs Huszti and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar from 12 yards. "When you save a penalty, it really gets the adrenaline pumping."

9) The Mask of Bayer

Like any top goalkeeper worth his salt, Leno also has courage - stacks of it. There's an entire highlight reel on the Bundesliga's official YouTube channel dedicated to his body-on-the-line heroics. He even played with a broken nose in a Champions League last 16 game against Diego Simeone's Atletico Madrid. What is it they say? Nothing can keep a good man down…

The steely eyed Leno would try to stop a ten-tonne truck if he had to. © gettyimages / Christof Koepsel/Bongarts

10) Like a phoenix from the mishaps

… Not even the occasional blunder. In a Bundesliga game with Augsburg in October 2015, Leno contrived to slice a harmless-looking back pass from Jonathan Tah into the back of his own net. He later dropped two uncharacteristic clangers in Germany's 3-2 win over Australia at the FIFA 2017 Confederations Cup - although he did go on to lift the trophy.

Even the very best are human.

Chris Mayer-Lodge

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