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Bernd Leno praises his ‘idol’ Jens Lehman as new Arsenal keeper shares delight at joining Unai Emery’s Emirates revolution

PUBLISHED: 14:18 21 June 2018 | UPDATED: 14:26 21 June 2018

Bernd Leno will wear the No19 shirt for Arsenal. CREDIT: Arsenal FC

Bernd Leno will wear the No19 shirt for Arsenal. CREDIT: Arsenal FC

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Arsenal’s new goalkeeper Bernd Leno has praised Jens Lehman as the £20 million signing from Bayer Leverkusen settles in at the North London giants.

New Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno in action for his previous club Bayer Leverkusen goalkeepe. PANew Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno in action for his previous club Bayer Leverkusen goalkeepe. PA

The highly-rated German joined Unai Emery’s overhaul of the Gunners squad earlier this week and has wasted no time in hailing the club’s 2003-04 Invincible keeper Lehman.

The Stuttgart-born 26-year-old impressed at hometown club after making his debut for Die Roten in 2009, before moving onto Leverkusen two seasons later, becoming the youngest netminder to feature in a Champions League match at the age of just 19 years and 193 days against Chelsea.

He received his first senior international call-up three years ago and has won six caps for Germany.

Complementing the former Mannschaft shotstopper Lehman, Leno told Arsenal.com: “I had some training sessions with him when I was very young, about 16 or 17 years old.

Arsenal's former goalkeeper Jens Lehman has posted a cryptic tweet after being released by the club. PAArsenal's former goalkeeper Jens Lehman has posted a cryptic tweet after being released by the club. PA

“Jens was around 40 years old and for me it was very exciting. He was so concentrated, so professional and that’s the mentality that you need as a professional goalkeeper.

“When I was a child, Iker Casillas was always my idol, but when I was at Stuttgart, there were many players, like Timo Hildebrand and Jens.

“I watched many of Jens’ training sessions to learn from him. They were my idols.”

Despite Lehman being released by the club this week after this third spell at the club, rising star Leno couldn’t hide his delight at joining Emery’s Emirates revolution.

New Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno in action for his previous club Bayer Leverkusen goalkeeper against Spurs at Wembley. PANew Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno in action for his previous club Bayer Leverkusen goalkeeper against Spurs at Wembley. PA

The keeper, who was initially a midfielder as a child, switched to the last line of defence when his junior team’s No1 dropped out.

Thankfully the talented Leno – who saved nine penalties during his Bundesliga career, more than any other netminder including Neuer – showed his qualities so that 15 years later he is now Arsenal’s undisputed first choice.

He added: “My first memories of football were my first game when I visited Stuttgart’s stadium. Since that point it was a dream to become a professional football player - and 15 years later I’ve signed for Arsenal. I can say I’m living my dream.

“I was a midfielder until I was nine or 10 years old. But the goalkeeper from my hometown club didn’t come to one game and I tried to play there.

Germany goalkeeper Bernd Leno during a training session at Windsor Park, Belfast (pic Niall Carson/PA)Germany goalkeeper Bernd Leno during a training session at Windsor Park, Belfast (pic Niall Carson/PA)

“I was good and since then I never wanted to leave the goal.”

Join the Islington Gazette’s Arsenal Facebook page and follow Gunners reporter Layth on Twitter @laythy29.

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