Ready for D-Day


Jens Lehmann, who is now Germany’s first choice after ousting his now-retired long-term rival Oliver Kahn before the last World Cup, feels a move may be necessary to prolong his international career, writes Andy Hampson.

Jens Lehmann is a talented but outspoken and out-of-favour Arsenal goalkeeper currently considering a mid-season move back to his homeland with Dortmund.

Lehmann, who is now Germany’s first choice after ousting his now-retired long-term rival Oliver Kahn before the last World Cup, feels a move may be necessary to prolong his international career.

He had been number one with Barclays English Premier League giant Arsenal until losing his place to Manuel Almunia this season.

At 38, Lehmann boasts a wealth of experience, having played for Schalke for close to a decade and won the Bundesliga with Dortmund before joining the Gunners. He has also been involved in three World Cups but inconsistency and his fiery temperament have occasionally undermined his career.

Lehmann, who was born in Essen, began his career with Schalke in 1989. He established a fine reputation with the club and helped it win the UEFA Cup in 1997 before being tempted to join AC Milan for a brief spell in 1998. After making just five appearances he returned to Germany with Dortmund a year later. He won a Bundesliga title in 2002 but, apart from a number of solid displays, he also ran into disciplinary problems as he was sent off five times.

He moved to Arsenal in 2003 having been identified by Arsene Wenger as a potential successor to former England stopper David Seaman. His experience, particularly in Europe, proved a huge asset and, despite a couple of high-profile blunders, he eventually established himself as Arsenal’s first choice.

Poor form did lead to a spell out of the side in 2004-05 but Almunia failed to make the most of his chance as replacement and Lehmann was restored for the second part of what became an FA Cup-winning campaign.

The following year proved a remarkable, but ultimately disappointing one for Lehmann. He was outstanding for most of the campaign and took the German national team jersey from Kahn. He also saved a penalty against Villarreal to send Arsenal to the UEFA Champions League final.

However, Arsenal tailed off in the Premier League and Lehmann was sent off as it lost the European final to Barcelona. Germany reached the World Cup semifinals with Lehmann saving penalties against Argentina in a shoot-out along the way, but it went out to Italy after extra time. He remained first choice at Arsenal throughout 2006-07 but his future was uncertain as his contract was due to expire at the end of the campaign. Lehmann wanted more than the additional one year being offered but eventually committed to another 12 months.

His start to the current season was dreadful and a couple of bad errors, followed by injury, led to Almunia establishing himself. Lehmann has voiced his dissatisfaction with the situation, but Wenger seems happy with Almunia.

Lehmann and Kahn endured a long and bitter rivalry. Lehmann was first capped by Germany in 1998 but always played second fiddle to the Bayern Munich great, travelling to two World Cups and two European Championships as his understudy and usually playing only in friendlies.

Living in Kahn’s shadow was not something Lehmann was happy to accept and he often proffered the opinion that he was the better player. He even claimed there must have been a Bayern Munich/Kahn conspiracy against him. His outspoken nature made him unpopular with the German public and media, who always favoured Kahn. Lehmann eventually forced his way ahead in 2006 when boss Jurgen Klinsmann felt he had to act on Kahn’s poor form.

Lehmann married Conny, a school teacher, in 1999. Together they have three children, Lasse, Mats and Lieselotta. Like many footballers, Lehmann is not short of a car or two. In his garage he has a Porsche 911 and a Mercedes CLS. The Porsche 911 is one of the most stylish and aspired-to sportscars ever created while the Mercedes CLS is a luxurious saloon that offers high power, quality and reliability.

Factfile Name: Jens Lehmann Position: Goalkeeper Club: Arsenal DOB: 10/11/1969 Germany caps: 51 Germany goals: 0 Germany debut: v Oman, February 1988 Moment to remember

Lehmann endured a number of lows in the early part of his career due to an alarming tendency to commit errors. He eventually overcame this with a number of solid displays and cemented his place in Gunners’ hearts with his performance in the 2005 FA Cup final against Manchester United. He made a number of important saves throughout the game and then kept out a Paul Scholes spot-kick as the Gunners won on penalties.

Moment to forget

Lehmann’s worst Arsenal moment came when he was dismissed for a professional foul just 18 minutes into the 2006 UEFA Champions League final in Paris. Lehmann, normally commanding in his area, rushed out to meet Barcelona’s Samuel Eto’o but felled him. Ten-man Arsenal eventually lost 2-1.

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