Why Sven Ulreich is an unsung hero at Bayern München

Sven Ulreich "saves everything that comes his way – and sometimes more" according to team-mate Mats Hummels; UEFA.com gives the stand-in keeper his due.

Sven Ulreich has been thriving in Manuel Neuer's absence at Bayern
Sven Ulreich has been thriving in Manuel Neuer's absence at Bayern ©Getty Images

Having filled in admirably since Manuel Neuer suffered a broken foot in September, goalkeeper Sven Ulreich will be key to Bayern's hopes of reining in a free-scoring Beşiktaş in the UEFA Champions League round of 16.

Expert testimony

"He's on our radar ahead of the World Cup. In one-on-one situations, he's very good. At Bayern, he's also learned to play the ball out from the back."
Joachim Löw, Germany coach

Ulreich has impressed his team-mates at Bayern
Ulreich has impressed his team-mates at Bayern©Getty Images

"He saves well and has a lot of belief in himself. He's really played a part in the fact we've kept a lot of clean sheets this season. We're really pleased with how he's developed; that's been particularly important in light of Neuer's absence."
Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, Bayern chairman and two-time European Champion Clubs' Cup winner

"He's been really solid behind the defence for months. He exudes calmness and saves everything that comes his way – and sometimes more."
Mats Hummels, Bayern defender

Current tally

International: 0 appearances
UEFA club competition: 34 appearances
Domestic competition*: 224 appearances

Why he matters

Watch Ulreich set up Bayern's opener against Celtic
Watch Ulreich set up Bayern's opener against Celtic

• He is more than just Neuer's deputy. Regular football in Neuer's absence has enabled the uncapped Ulreich to demonstrate why he has always been considered one of Germany's most talented keepers. The 29-year-old's performances have been such that Bayern have not had to rush their captain back, while he has even exceeded Neuer in one department: Ulreich notched a UEFA Champions League assist by setting up Kingsley Coman during Bayern's 2-1 win at Celtic on matchday four, something Neuer – for all his ball-playing ability – has never managed.

• He is a big-game player, which bodes well for the knockout rounds. Ulreich rescued three points for Bayern by saving a last-minute penalty on his return to former club Stuttgart in December, was the hero in a German Cup shoot-out against RB Leipzig and also made three expert stops against Borussia Dortmund in a 3-1 Bundesliga victory in November.

• He is German. Uli Hoeness's return as Bayern president in late 2016 coincided with a drive to make the Bavarian giants more German. In that sense, Ulreich – born in Schorndorf, just outside Stuttgart – fits the bill perfectly. "For me, Sven Ulreich is the man of the year," said Hoeness in December. "He played a huge role in Bayern's turnaround. He absolutely has to extend his contract." Two months later, Ulreich did.

Ulreich meets the press at Bayern
Ulreich meets the press at Bayern©Getty Images

• He is a fan favourite. Unfussy and reliable, Ulreich was voted Bayern's player of the month for November and again in December, and Bayern supporters waited after the game to serenade him with chants of "Ulle, Ulle" after that late penalty save in Stuttgart. What's more, he donated his tickets for Bayern's trip to Hoffenheim earlier this season to a terminally ill child.

What he says

"Manu [Neuer] is the best goalkeeper in the world and it's not easy to replace him. If you let in a goal, you know people are thinking he would have saved it, but I've worked on my kicking, my saves and my reflexes and I've improved technically."

*senior club appearances only