Last week, Express.co.uk reported Liverpool's intention to sign talented German (and ex-Man United) 'keeper Ron-Robert Zieler so we asked our German expert to give us the low-down on the man who could be heading between the sticks at Anfield.
Ron-Robert Zieler made his first steps in the youth team of 1. FC Köln, the club from his home town. In 2005, when he was 16, he caught the eye of Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson and joined the youth team of the Premier League club. During his time in England, he joined the reserve squad and had several loan moves, including a short-term loan at Northampton Town, where he played his first professional game at the age of 19; a League One match against FC Walsall. After his return to United he was injured and suffered a significant set-back in the race for the number 2 spot in the first team.
Zieler returned to Germany and joined Bundesliga team Hannover 96 in summer 2010. The club from Lower Saxony had just avoided relegation following the suicide of goalkeeper and captain Robert Enke in November 2009. The place between the posts was picked up by the replacement goalkeeper Florian Fromlowitz, who also started the new season as the number 1 keeper. After 15 games for the reserve team, Zieler was surprisingly moved up after the winter break and promoted to the first team, replacing Fromlowitz.
Since his very early days, Zieler had played in the youth teams of the German national team. He played in the Under-16, Under-17 and Under-18 teams and then won the Under-19 European Championship in 2008 and reached the quarter finals of the Under-20 World Cup. His debut for the German national team was in a friendly match against Ukraine in November 2011, when he fell victim to an experiment in defence by coach Joachim Löw and conceded three goals in a 3-3 tie. In his second game, he was sent off in a friendly v Argentina for denying a goal-scoring opportunity.
After his debut for Hannover in January 2011, Zieler has quickly established himself as the Number 1 in the Hannover goal. In that season, his reflex saves supported an unlikely run by the team that saw them finish in 4th spot which meant the first ever season in the Europa League for the club. His good form continued in the following 2011/12 season, when the team reached the Europa League quarter finals and fell to eventual winners Atletico Madrid, and reached 7th in the Bundesliga. In 2012/13, Hannover finished in 9th spot and missed out on European competition.
The keeper reportedly has a buy-out clause in his contract, which runs till June 2015. According to German tabloid Bild, he can leave the club for roughly €8m, a sum close to his current valuation of €8.5m by website transfermarkt.de.
Zieler's style is a very calm one. He is not a keeper to show outrageous parades but rather sticks to getting on with his job. He is very good on the line and always capable to keep out one of the so-called “unsaveables”. However, due to his physique, he is not the most assured when coming off his line. Zieler is not fragile by any means, but can still be out-muscled by opponents. His judgement in terms of catching crosses varies; in some games he catches each high ball safely, in others he can look lost and hoping for aid of his team mates. If his confidence drops, he has a tendency to palm shots away rather than trying to save them. On his day, though, he is a very fine keeper that can save the day for his team with great saves.
Given the attitude a Premier League keeper needs, I'd say he needs a little bit of physicality. He is technical, although his distribution can be improved. On the other hand he has spent several years in the Manchester United academy and had a loan spell in the lower leagues, so he is not a stranger to the English game and he should adapt quicker than for example a David de Gea, who struggled in his first time in the Premier League. In summary, I can see Ron-Robert Zieler being a success in the Premier League. He has played and convinced in the Europa League and made his way through a rough patch in the last season, where his confidence was down due to a weak defence in front of him. If a Premier League club picks him up and gives him time to adapt, he can be an asset to any team.
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