Interview

Leno - The story of how I became a keeper

Bernd Leno may never have become a goalkeeper had a former team-mate turned up for a youth game.

Our goalkeeper was initially a midfielder when growing up, but switched after his team were left short of a keeper.

Read on to find out the full story, Leno's first memories of football and the Arsenal icon who helped shape his career.

Bernd, let’s go right back to your childhood. What are your first memories of football?
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.

What can you tell us about that first game you watched?
It was in Stuttgart, my hometown. I was with my parents and my brother to watch the game against Bremen. I remember it was an exciting game, I was so nervous before it and I will never forget it. 

Who were your idols when you were growing up? Which players did you like watching?
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 Lehmann. I watched many of Jens’ training sessions to learn from him. So yeah, they were my idols.

What can you tell us about those training sessions? Did you ever train together? 
I had some training sessions with him when I was very young, about 16 or 17 years old. Jens Lehmann 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.

Going back to your childhood, were you always a goalkeeper? If not, tell us the story of how you became one…
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. I was good and since then I never wanted to leave the goal!