Is Jens Lehmann for real?
Former Germany goalkeeper Jens Lehmann is no stranger to controversy. But in recent weeks he has stirred up a debate despite being in the twilight of his playing days.
First he delayed the publication of his memoirs for next year and then signed another one-year contract extension with Stuttgart after saying last year this was his final season.
Everyone asked why. Then came the reason.
The former Arsenal keeper, 39, stunned the nation with his admission that he wants to compete in another World Cup, in South Africa next year, overriding his international retirement following Germany’s 1-0 loss to Spain in the Euro 2008 final.
Germany boss Joachim Loew and national goalkeeping coach Andreas Koepke quickly ruled out calling up Lehmann again, saying it would be a bad signal for the younger keepers.
But Lehmann said at the weekend that the chances of Germany needing a quality keeper of his calibre next year “are going to be very high.”.
While Loew has yet to decide on a first choice keeper since Lehmann’s departure, there are at least four vying for the top spot.
There’s Hanover’s Robert Enke, who played in the last two World Cup qualifiers against Liechtenstein and Wales, Bayer Leverkusen’s Rene Adler, Werder Bremen keeper Tim Wiese as well as young Manuel Neuer, who plays for Schalke.
“It is a shame. He used to be a nice guy before he went to Stuttgart. But now all he does is provoke,” Wiese said this week.
Lehmann has indeed been involved in several controversial incidents recently, including angrily ripping the headband off Stuttgart defender Khalid Boulahrouz during a UEFA Cup tie.
He also threw a Hoffenheim player’s boot into the stands and haggled with a referee about where Bremen midfielder Diego should position the ball for a free kick. Diego then scored from the spot chosen by Lehmann.
Whether his desire to return to the national team is just another of his antics remains to be seen.
PHOTO: VfB Stuttgart goalkeeper Jens Lehmann during their UEFA Cup match against Zenit St.Peterburg, Feb. 26, 2009. REUTERS/Thomas Bohlen