Bernd Leno 20 Goalkeeper Bayer Leverkusen
Germany's goalkeeping corps is the envy of every national team manager the world over. Manuel Neuer has taken control of the number one jersey for die Mannschaft after establishing himself as the nation's best goalkeeper and securing a move to Bayern Munich. Tim Wiese, Marc-André ter Stegen and Ron-Robert Zieler have now made a handful of appearances for their country, highlighting the frightening strength in depth at Joachim Löw's fingertips.
René Adler has really caught the eye for Hamburg this season and is very much a part of the national team picture, but the man who replaced him at Bayer Leverkusen looks to have a difficult job on his hands in terms of international recognition. VfB Stuttgart graduate Bernd Leno stepped in for Adler when the East German custodian was forced out of action through injury.
Leno had been on loan at the BayArena and secured a lengthy permanent deal a year ago. Adler's injury and subsequent transfer to Thorsten Fink's Hamburg have seen Leno become the uncontested first choice at Leverkusen in 2012/13 and add to his 20 starts for the club last term.
As is the custom with goalkeepers, we must discuss Leno's weaknesses first. His command of the penalty area - and indeed the six-yard box - can be called into question too frequently, which is largely to be expected of a goalkeeper of such modest years.
He is sometimes not willing to come off his line, particularly from set pieces, which in turn causes confusion and worry in the defence. And yet there are also occasions when Leno gets caught in no-man's land, hardly aided by a defence that occasionally resembled a rabbit caught in the headlights of crosses and free kicks into the box early on in this season.
Leno's distribution, on the other hand, is much more of a positive. He is calm on the ball, though not flawless under pressure. He's always keen to find the short pass so indicative of teams that know the importance of having the ball. When the situation dictates something more robust, Leno's long kicks can be tantamount to dropping the ball into the final third from a blimp, a trick that in bygone years would have been an attacking threat of some repute.
There's no denying that 2012 has been a solid year for Leno, a welcome response to an unqualified show of faith shown in him by Leverkusen and Robin Dutt, Sami Hyypiä's and Sascha Lewandowski's predecessor. He has confirmed his place as the first choice goalkeeper in a very good Bundesliga side with aspirations of repeating their qualification for European competition.
Picking up full international caps is perhaps Leno's greatest challenge. A solid and reliable goalkeeper he may well become, but, with such a range of established and potential goalkeeping greats in his way, becoming a regular for Germany will be an uphill battle. In truth, getting capped may yet be a task too far.
"If it wasn't for the plethora of talented goalkeepers in Germany, Leno would probably be a full senior international by now but for the time being he is the U-21's first choice goalkeeper and frequent Leverkusen match winner. No doubt that Leno is next in line should a spot in the senior team open up." - Cristian Nyari (Bundesliga Fanatic)
C Tough task to break into an exceptional crop