Bayer 04 Leverkusen No1 Bernd Leno has taken giant strides since making his UEFA Champions League debut against Chelsea FC in 2011.
Leno was just 19 when he featured at Stamford Bridge to become the youngest goalkeeper to play in Europe's premier club competition. "It was strange. One day I was playing in the third division and then in the Champions League," said the former VfB Stuttgart custodian. "All of a sudden I was up against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. I couldn't believe it, it was like a dream. Since then I've believed in myself and here I am now."
The road to success has not always been smooth, however, with Leno leaking a total of nine goals in two Group A outings against Manchester United FC this term. "Maybe we were overawed by them. They also scored at the right times. [Robin] van Persie and [Wayne] Rooney have great ability, but that goes without saying. We made too many individual mistakes and they were clinical," the Germany Under-21 keeper admitted.
Despite going down 4-2 at Old Trafford and succumbing 5-0 to United on home soil, Leverkusen dug deep to advance in second spot under the shrewd guidance of popular coach Sami Hyypiä. "He is doing a great job. He's great on a personal level and clear in what he wants to do with the team. He is not one to shout and jump around on the sidelines. He conveys his message in a calm manner," said Leno, whose side tackle Paris Saint-Germain in their round of 16 opener on 18 February at the BayArena.
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