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The run goes on

“You can always rely on Michael Rensing”

With three goals conceded in eight games, the ‘new Bayern’ with its flowing and incisive attacking style has also demonstrated a masterful defensive ability in the first couple of months of the new season. The league leaders have kept five clean sheets in eight matches, the best defensive record in the Bundesliga.

Credit for this impressive record goes not only to the two midfield enforcers, Zé Roberto and Mark van Bommel, and to an almost insurmountable back four with central defenders Lucio and Martin Demichelis at their heart, but also to the man between the posts. Captain Oliver Kahn has four times kept the opposition out, and during Saturday’s narrow 1-0 victory in Leverkusen, Michael Rensing showed why next season he will be the new no. 1 at Bayern.

Rensing still undefeated

“You can always rely on Michael Rensing,” said coach Ottmar Hitzfeld of the 23-year-old goalkeeper. After Oliver Kahn sustained an elbow injury while warming up in Leverkusen, Rensing was summoned at the last minute to make his first Bundesliga appearance of the season and assured the league leaders of their sixth win in eight games with a string of excellent saves. Especially in the first half, “we had Michael Rensing to thank for the fact that we did not fall behind,” Hitzfeld said.

“It’s often happened that I’ve been called on to play at short notice,” said Rensing following his first outing this season. “I’m already used to it.” It presents no problem, because “every time I go through preparations as if I was going to play from the start”. And his heroics in his 14th Bundesliga match extended his own remarkable personal record – with 10 wins and four draws, Bayern has never lost with Rensing in goal.

Act of faith

“I had plenty to do, I shut them out, I had a lot of fun,” reflected Rensing on the Leverkusen match the following day, adding: “I really, really enjoyed myself.” Whether he will have the opportunity to enjoy himself as much on Thursday in the UEFA Cup return leg against Belenenses in Lisbon depends on whether Kahn recovers in time or has to miss out on the trip to Portugal. “We’ll see what happens,” said the relaxed Rensing.

In any case Bayern’s current no. 2 can relax about the future, with it having been long decided that he will succeed Kahn next season. “This is a big act of faith,” said Hitzfeld, who praises Rensing’s character. Despite his impressive performance, “he doesn’t come out making demands. He knows that Oliver Kahn absolutely remains the no. 1.”

Successor to Lehman?

“I can hang on for another nine months,” Rensing said, acknowledging that even in his final season the three-time World Goalkeeper of the Year is not about to hand over his jersey. But his Bayern team-mates are happy to have such an impressive understudy on hand. “You can see in training how hard he works,” says Hamit Altintop. “ I think he has learned a lot by watching Oliver Kahn. We shouldn’t have any problem in goal in the future.”

For Bayern general manager Uli Hoeneß the next step is obvious – to move up to the German national side. “I just have to laugh when people talk about who will succeed Jens Lehmann,” he says. “I am pretty sure that Lehman’s successor will be none other than Rensing.”

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