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Roman Weidenfeller: The end of an era

By Prashanth Kumar Purshotam

Bengaluru, May 15: Roman Weidenfeller has been one of Bundesliga’s most underappreciated greats. The Dortmund Goalkeeper who has won two Bundesliga titles, two Dfb Pokal German Super Cups and was between the sticks in the 2013 Champions league final has played his final top flight outing at the Signal Iduna Park against Mainz on Matchday 33.

He has been appreciated less for his impact at Dortmund. Weidenfeller has rightly been deemed as one of the most vital cogs in their recent success streak that has seen Dortmund grow from domestic to a continental powerhouse.

BVB signed him as a young 21 year old with potential from Kaiserslautern in 2002 as a backup for the then no. 1 Jens Lehmann. Lehmann perhaps sensing a change of guard moved to Arsenal next summer. In 2004, Weidenfeller became the No. 1 goalkeeper for Dortmund.

It was hard to imagine a Dortmund team without Weidenfeller across the decade of 2004 to 2015. He was a Klopp favourite starting both his first and final games and pretty much every other in-between.

He displayed excellent shot stopping ability and always dominated his penalty area. He also showed his leadership skills deputizing for Sebastian Kehl in the title winning 2010/11 season. Weidenfeller did one better next season, starting 32 of the 34 Bundesliga games and also saving an Arjen Robben penalty in 86th minute of Matchday 30 that effectively enabled Dortmund to retain the title. Weidenfeller was hailed as “the best goalkeeper in the world” by Klopp after the Champions league final at the end of that season.

For all his excellent domestic and European performances, the call for International duty only came in November 2013; and in the 1-0 triumph over England, the Diez native became the oldest goalkeeper and player to start for Diemanchaft at the age of 33. Although he did not feature in Brazil 2014 instead being an understudy to Manuel Neuer, he will always hold that World Cup Winner’s medal closest to his heart.

When the new manager Thomas Tuchel brought in Roman Burkii in 2014, Weidenfeller fought for his place starting all the Europa League games for BVB that season. But now closer to 40, he was ultimately demoted to being the Reserve goalkeeper.

In his 16 years in North Rhineland Weidenfeller has made a record 452 appearances for Dortmund, only behind Club legend Michael Zorc. The retiring keeper will have his Testimonial match on 7 September 2018 featuring current and old opponents and teammates. He has recently stated that he will remain at Dortmund in some capacity in the near future. A player who has bled yellow and black all of his professional career deserved a better send off than the 2-1 loss to Mainz. However, considering his achievements, we can safely say his journey mattered more than the end.

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    Story first published: Tuesday, May 15, 2018, 18:03 [IST]
    Other articles published on May 15, 2018
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