One of modern football’s unwritten rules is that No player starts ahead of Manuel Neuer. But what if a player gets the chance to replace him? Naturally, he will be held up to the same standard and likely he will fail to meet that. But that hasn’t been the case for Sven Ulreich, Bayern’s unlikely hero this season.
The 29-year-old has given Bayern probably the best season of his career, offering the safety in front of goal that Bayern has needed in order to capture yet another Bundesliga trophy. Manager Jupp Heynckes unabashedly told reports,
Now he is showing his massive potential. He has been a gift from God while Neuer has been injured. Sven is, after Neuer, the best goalkeeper in the Bundesliga.
In fact Heynckes is largely responsible for Ulreich’s rise in form and reputation. The keeper arrived 2015 at the request of then manager Pep Guardiola. He received few opportunities to start (cf. the Neuer rule above!), and the keeper seriously considered seeking a transfer that would allow him to play more. But then he was suddenly called upon to start for Bayern following Neuer’s injury and has done so brilliantly.
This is where Ulrecih finds himself ahead of the career-defining Champions League semifinals against Real Madrid. Seizing the chance he has been given, Ulreich has helped Bayern register the best defense in the Bundesliga. He has claimed 17 clean sheets in 41 games. There are even talks of a call-up to this summer’s World Cup tournament where Germany are one of the tournament’s favourites. It’s because of this that Bayern feel confident that they can stop the current European champions’ stellar attacking force (Ronaldo, Isco, perhaps even Benzema).
The top players are expected to be at their best in the most difficult and stressful circumstances. Many less experienced players would freeze when considering that a Champions League final was at stake. Ulreich, however, is confident about the team’s chances and his own abilities. He says it has been this prevailing confidence that has guided him throughout the season.
My good games started with the arrival of Jupp. I immediately felt his confidence, something I didn’t have with his predecessor. Confidence is the most important for an athlete.
Bayern take on Real Madrid in Munich tonight. It’s a chance for the Bavarians to avenge last season’s quarterfinals defeat and make their way into their first UCL final since 2013. Sven Ulreich is ready.