Sven Ulreich returned to team practice this week after a short layoff with minor adductor issues, and is expected to slide back into the starting lineup again, replacing wanna-be retiree Tom Starke, who jumped in for two solid performances. It comes just in time to face the club that Sven joined when he was a wee lad of only ten years of age, progressing to the starting keeper from 2008 to 2015.
This will mark the first time the former VfB Stuttgart player will face his “Herzensklub” — “club of his heart” — at his old stomping grounds. He was the backup to Manuel Neuer in 2016 in the season after his transfer, and VfB was playing in the second division last season. On this occasion, he felt that he needed to set a couple of things straight during an interview with Stuttgarter Nachrichten.
Hunting for glory (and money)?
When it was first announced that Ulreich was moving to FC Bayern Munich, most people were surprised. He was, after all, the starter at his club, in the prime of his career, and was moving to a spot on the bench at his new club, behind undisputed number one, Neuer. The assumption was that he was looking for a big payday, and was willing to sacrifice playing time for money and titles. VfB Stuttgart fueled those assumptions, stating that Sven had asked for a transfer, wanting to be released from his contract that had two more years to run.
“I didn’t want to leave”
When asked what he hoped for in his return to Mercedes-Benz Arena, he naturally answered that he wanted three points, only to add that he would also like a “friendly reception from the Stuttgart audience.” When reminded that he was more likely to receive whistles than applause, as is usual when a player leaves to go to big, bad Bayern, he acknowledged that, but wanted to “set the record straight about a few things” regarding his transfer.
Back in 2015, he was told by the sport director — Robin Dutt, at that time — that the club was looking to go in a different direction.
I was asked whether I would be interested in looking around for something new. That was a clear sign. Only after that did I get active [in looking for a new club]. I never pushed for a transfer — but that’s how it was portrayed to the public by VfB, which is why I caught a lot of negative comments from VfB-fans on the web.
The move was two and a half years ago, why didn’t he say something then? Ulreich didn’t want to cause any anxiety at the club where he started his career, but now felt that “it was time to present things the way they actually happened.”
No hard feelings
Does he still harbor a grudge over how things went down? “Not at all, I’ve moved on from it.” says the 29-year old, “I grew up at VfB, it’s still the club of my heart [Herzenklub], my family and I built a house in Stuttgart. I will always have close ties to the city and the club, especially since I will live in Stuttgart once my career is over.”
Will these revelations actually produce a friendlier reception for VfB Stuttgart’s prodigal son than would normally be expected for someone who “betrayed” the hometown fans? We’ll have to tune in on Saturday to find out, but at the very least, it shows that Sven Ulreich is a bigger man than most, taking the high road by choosing not to start a war of words with the club, which he obviously still holds dear to his heart.
Here’s to grabbing a win with his current club, keeping a clean sheet, all while receiving the earned respect from the home fans.