thumbnail Hello, reflects on the surprising downward spiral that the 26-year-old goalkeeper has experienced over the last year-and-a-half, beginning with missing World Cup 2010

By Clark Whitney | German Football Editor

Just over 19 months ago, Rene Adler was at the very height of his game, a still-young goalkeeper who appeared to have all the qualities to propel him to world-class status. Following the tragic death of Robert Enke, it was he - not Manuel Neuer - whom Joachim Low named his first-choice goalkeeper in the months preceding the 2010 World Cup, and at the time his potential was boundless. But it was not to be.

Fate intervened on April 17, 2010, when Adler sustained a rib fracture in Bayer Leverkusen’s 2-1 loss to Stuttgart. Two weeks later, he was ruled out of the World Cup, thus beginning a sharp downward turn for the Leipzig native.

After the summer tournament, which saw Neuer seamlessly stand in for his injured compatriot, Low confirmed a changing of the guard. In a September press conference, the trainer famously demoted the injured Michael Ballack from his role as captain, and announced that Neuer would remain No. 1.

Since then, Adler has appeared just once for his country - in a friendly against Sweden - and seen his stock plummet, at least relative to the competition. Individually, he had a rather ordinary 2010-11 campaign with Leverkusen, in a year that saw the rapid rise of several young goalkeepers. Adler’s stagnation was effectively a decline: by season’s end, he had to worry not only about competition from No. 3 Tim Wiese, but shooting stars Ron-Robert Zieler (now a capped Germany international), Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Tobias Sippel, Kevin Trapp and Oliver Baumann.


Date of birth
Jan. 15, 1985
At Leverkusen since
Senior debut
Nov. 19, 2008
Youth teams
U17, U18, U20, U21
Last senior cap
Nov. 17, 2010

History would come to repeat itself just 15 months after his rib injury as, in July, Adler sustained a knee injury that would keep him sidelined until January. And, just as it had the previous year, his absence would prove costly as another young talent emerged to take his role, this time at club level. Indeed, Bernd Leno - an emergency loanee signed only because of an injury to back-up stopper Fabian Giefer - recently signed a full contract until 2017, effectively spelling the end of Adler’s career at Leverkusen.

Fate has been woefully cruel to Adler, who can only curse his luck. Leno would never have joined Leverkusen in the first place had it not been for Giefer's injury, and would never have played had David Yelldell not had a horrific show in B04’s 4-3 loss in their DFB Pokal opener against Dynamo Dresden. But enough happened at Leverkusen for a 19-year-old, who had never played a professional game in his career, to be entrusted with the responsibility of protecting his new side’s goal in the Champions League. And, but for one anomaly against Valencia, he has done so admirably, prompting Bayer to pay as much as €8 million to release him from his contract at Stuttgart.

Now, at just 26, Adler is a forgotten man, a substitute who is sure to leave Leverkusen when his contract expires in the summer, if not sooner. There will be interested clubs in Germany, but the majority of the big teams are settled in the goalkeeper department. A year ago he declined a contract extension, reserving the option of moving to a top club. But gone are those days: at present, his most likely destination appears to be Hamburg.

This is not the end for Adler, of course: he still has many years of quality football ahead of him if he keeps his focus and remains confident. In January, previously ‘washed-up’ Bayern Munich goalkeeper Michael Rensing moved to Koln and has since impressed. Enke had an even more dramatic rise back to prominence, and his good displays for modest Hannover saw him earn the role of Germany No. 1 following Jens Lehmann’s international retirement. So there is hope for Adler to return and have a successful career. But, no matter what comes, he will always wonder what could have been.

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