Jens Gerhard Lehmann, one of the most successful goalkeepers of Germany. His path was paved with glory and success. He is often termed as the ‘Mad Jens’ for his short-tempered nature and crazy attitude on the field. He was the perfect example for the right man at the wrong time as he always remained a second choice goalkeeper after Oliver Kahn. Lehmann was a perfect combination of madcap antics and talent.
He is regarded as among the all-time greatest goalkeepers to play in Bundesliga. Lehmann was the first goalkeeper to score from open play to equalize for Schalke 04 in a Rivier Derby. He is known for his agility, reflexes, and acrobatic shot-stopping ability. His ability to distribute balls with either leg was incredible. He was a leader and could organize the defense nicely. He was loud and vocal on the ground and he possessed a strong mentality.
Jens Lehmann: Childhood and Early Career
Jens Gerhard Lehmann was born on 10th November 1969 in Essen, North Rhine-Westphalia, West Germany. He initially started playing as a striker in his childhood but later got recognition for his goalkeeping abilities when his childhood team lacked a proper goalkeeper and he took up the responsibility on his shoulder.
Career at Schalke 04
Jens Lehmann started his professional career in Schalke 04. He played for seven years for the Royal Blues. He joined the side in the 1988-89 season. His first seasons were shaky but gradually he established himself into the team list. One of the memorable incidents that took place in the early years of his career was in 1993 against Bayer Leverkusen where he conceded three goals in the first half and was substituted at half time that caused him to flee from the stadium alone by tram. Lehmann scored his first goal in his career against 1860 Munich from a penalty spot in a 6-2 victory.
He became the UEFA Goalkeeper of the Year 1997 guiding Schalke 04 to win the UEFA Cup 1997 by defeating Milan in the final where Lehmann saved two penalties in the penalty shootout. In that season he scored the first goal scored from open play by a goalkeeper in the history of Bundesliga and that too a last-minute equalizer in a Rivier derby for the Blues on 19th December 1997
Transfer to Milan
Next season in 1988 he left Schalke for A.C. Milan but his spell in Milan did not turn out to be a fruitful one as he could only make five appearances. His performances were very poor and that costed Milan in losing points. In one match Batistuta scored a hat-trick including a free-kick that was given away by Lehmann for handling a backpass. So he was dropped only after 5 matches and he understood that might not get any chance so he chose to leave San Siro.
Joining the Arch-rivals Dortmund
Jens Lehmann joined Borussia Dortmund the arch-rivals of Schalke 04 and he was no longer considered a hero in Schalke. Though he stated that:-
From 1999-2002 Jens Lehmann played for Borussia Dortmund. He had a difficult start to his return to Germany but slowly he started to perform well and gradually became reliable under the sticks. He played a humongous role in bringing back the glory days of Dortmund. In 1999 he received the first red card of his career that too in the 90th minute vs Hansa Rostock after he pulled Timo Lange by his hair after a clash among the players. Lehmann was sent off and Lange was booked for provocation and to worsen things up Rostock won that match 2-0. Later Lehmann had to say this.
The year 2002 was a very significant year in his career. He won the Bundesliga and reached the UEFA Cup finals but ended up as runners to Feyenoord Rotterdam. Lehmann also received a four-match ban from DFB after kicking Soumailia Coulibaly of Freiburg in a 5-1 win for Dortmund. The officials missed the event during the game or else the outcome could have been different. In his last season at Dortmund, he made some peculiar records, he pushed his own team-mate and as a result, was sent off and making him the only player to receive 4 red cards as a goalkeeper in Bundesliga till now. These things earned him the nickname ‘Mad Jens’
Becoming an Invincible
Lehmann joined Arsenal on 25th July 2003. Right after joining he started to show his mad antics and first of which started with the infamous ‘THE BATTLE OF OLD TRAFFORD’, after the match 8 Arsenal players and 4 Manchester United players were fined by FA. Again in December 2003, he was fined £10,000 by FA for throwing the ball at Southampton striker Kevin Phillips. At the end of the season, Arsenal was crowned as the Invincible and Lehmann played a significant role in it. His intelligence and interception abilities were marvelous. In the last match at White Hart Lane, he was sent off for pushing Tottenham striker Robbie Keane.
Next season Jens Lehmann was a bit inconsistent and this leads him to be benched in place of Manuel Almunia but the Spaniard turned out to be more vulnerable so he got back his position under the sticks and after then he gradually improved himself and got back to his prime and cemented his place after the performance he delivered against Manchester United in 2005 FA Cup Final. He saved Paul Scholes’ shot in the penalty shoot-out, that lead Arsenal to win 5-4.
Lehmann was one of the key factors for his side to reach their first-ever Champions League final in the 2005/06 season. In that run Arsenal kept ten consecutive clean sheets, breaking the previous record of seven clean sheets by Milan the previous year. The run was a straight 853-minute spell. It was a new record formed by Lehmann breaking the previous record of Edwin Van Der Sar.
But the end could have been different if Jens Lehmann would not have toppled on Eto’o and concede a red card. He could have narrowed the angle instead he went to a foot race and tripped Eto’o down and sent off at just the 18th minute of the game. This blunder leads Barcelona to win against a 10 men Arsenal by 2-1 in Stade de France.
Following some injury, Jens Lehmann became the second choice goalkeeper, even after recovery Manuel Almunia was still selected as the number one to start in the Premier League that made Lehmann angry but was assured to get his playing time in FA Cup. He feared that lack of playing time might cost him the number one spot in the German National Team. Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger described Lehmann’s attitude as “super-professional”. In April 2008 Almunia’s injury regained Lehmann his number one spot. By the end of the season, he decided to go back to Germany and signed for VfB Stuttgart.
He made 65 appearances for Stuttgart during his 2-year venture with Stuttgart. He announced his retirement on 30th June 2010.
In 2011 Jens Lehmann came out of retirement and joined his old club Arsenal due to lack of fit goalkeepers at that time in the club. On 17th March he signed for Arsenal. Then he made his first appearance for the Arsenal reserves on 29th March against Wigan in a 2-1 loss. He started for the main team against Blackpool in a 3-1 win which marked his 200th appearance for the Gunners. At the end of the season, he retired once again.
Jens Lehmann: International Career
Jens Lehmann has played 61 matches out of which 32 were friendlies. He made his debut in 1998 against Oman. His rivalry with Oliver Kahn was well known and it made him wait for a long time to become the national team number one. Jens Lehmann was the second choice goalkeeper in the 2002 world cup squad of Germany. On 7th April 2006, German national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann announced him as the number one of the squad and he went on to play the World Cup 2006. Jens Lehmann only conceded 2 goals in the first 4 matches with 3 clean sheets.
The main highlight of his international career was against Argentina in the quarter-final. The match remained tied after the extra time and it moved to tie-breaker where Jens Lehmann judged all the directions correctly and saved 2 of them, he saved shoot-outs of Roberto Ayala and Esteban Cambiasso, that lead his side to win the match 4-2. Thereafter he was considered a hero by the Germans. In the next match against Italy, Lehmann’s outstanding keeping kept Germany in the game till the extra-time. But failed to save the game as he conceded twice within a gap of one minute right at the end of the extra-time.
He was also the first choice goalkeeper in the UEFA Euro Cup 2008 where he guided his team to the final but a miscommunication between Jens Lehmann and Phillip Lahm allowed Fernando Torres to score the only goal of the match. On 8th August 2008, Jens Lehmann announced his retirement from the International duties.
Jens Lehmann: Life Off the Pitch
Jens Lehmann graduated from secondary school with A-Levels (Abitur) in 1988, he studied Economics at the University Of Munster from 1992 to 1998 simultaneously with his football career. In 1999, he married Conny, who was the ex-wife of footballer Knut Reinhardt and he also adopted their son Lasse. Lehmann and Conny have two of their own children Mats and Lieselotta.
He is one of the board members of the youth foundation of Stiftung Jugendfußball founded in 2000 by Jurgen Klinsmann. He is also the ambassador of the foundation Power-Child Campus South Africa, which supports children affected by HIV. He is also involved with the foundations of Bret Trautmann, Christoph Metzelder, and former Arsenal goalkeeper Bob Wilson.
Jens Lehmann made his debut in film industry in 2010. His first movie was Themba, he plays Big John Jacobs, a football coach and a scout, who dicovers a boy named Themba, who faces poverty ,AIDS and violence but immensely talented and he makes his way to the South African national team. This movie is based on a novel by Lutz van Dijk .
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