VAVEL spoke exclusively to Fortuna’s first-choice goalkeeper Michael Rensing on their season, goalkeepers and his former club Bayern Munich.
The first topic up for discussion was that of the club's campaign, which went downhill after a very bright start.
Under Oliver Reck's stewardship promotion looked like a real possibility, but only two wins in the second half of the season saw the end to two managers and, of course, their season. On a personal level, Rensing was satisfied though:
“I played almost all the matches. I had a small injury over winter so I missed four or five matches. I think I can be satisfied with myself.
"The second half of the season was very bad for us, so the goalkeeper gets more situations to prove himself.
"But yeah, of course, there are still a few situations in matches where you think you would have saved a goal on another day but in general I think I can be very satisfied with my personal season.”
As for an answer to the dip in form, Rensing was unsure as to what exactly the problem was:
“Yeah, it is difficult because until the last few matches of the first half of the season we were very good, high in the table and were performing really well.
"At the start of the second half of the season we did not start well," he said.
"Everybody who plays football knows that in a difficult situation the mood or the spirit of the team is not so good, the confidence gets less and the first coach [Reck] was fired and a few weeks ago the second coach was told he can go."
He added, "There were a few players that were supposed to be leading players but from their character they were not leading.
"We have got lots of young players who did not feel comfortable in this difficult situation.
"So one thing lead to another, it’s a negative process that has taken place from the winter onwards."
Despite all that happened, the veteran stopper was able to take away the positives from a difficult campaign:
"We can be glad that we played a good first half of the season but our second half was so bad, I think we were the worst team of the second half of the season.
"It’s good that the season ends now and have a new start for the next season.”
Frank Kramer will be the man in charge of F95 next season, so what are the targets going to be?
Can the former-Fürth coach lead the previous back-to-back cup winners to a Bundesliga return?
His keeper thinks they need to go back to the drawing board first:
“It [promotion] was the aim this season, we could not achieve that goal, yes, the club says we want to go up.
"A few players will leave the club, we have a new coach and new overall conditions. So we start again and see what the new season will bring.
"The plan in the long term is to get into the Bundesliga but first we must get stable and get the basics for the team and the new coach.”
The end of the season also saw the departure of club legend Andreas "Lumpi" Lambertz, who made an emotional farewell in the last game of the season before leaving for Dynamo Dresden. Rensing spoke fondly of him in his personal tribute:
"He’s a very good character. Of course, if you hear the name of the club Fortuna Düsseldorf you combine it with the name Lambertz.
"Even before I came here, we linked this name to Fortuna because he has experience almost everything with the club."
Rensing continued, "He went down to the fourth league and went all the way up to the first league so he is a legend here at this club.
"He is not the best technical player but he knows what his abilities are and he uses them for the club.
"He works hard he always gives everything and he’s a good tactical player for the team in defensive midfield.
"He was very good for the atmosphere and a good modern role model for the youngsters as well," he concluded.
The 31-year-old has had an admirable career being the last line of defence so far – playing for Bayern, 1. FC Köln, Bayer Leverkusen and Germany under-21s.
He knows what he is talking about when it comes to being a 'keeper. So, just what is needed to be a top modern-day ‘Torwart’?
“So, first of all, one thing will never change, a goalkeeper will always have to defend their goal so they need to improve their goalkeeping skills.
"Lots of power so they can jump well and far, they have a good goalkeeper technique, good reactions and always have a position in the match."
Rensing added, “But today it is more and more important that you have good feet so you can kick with both the right and left foot.
"And also to foresee what is going to happen, so maybe you stand a few metres closer to the front so you can solve problems before they begin.
"So to read the game’s situations basically, these have all become important the last few years."
While the Fortuna stopper says it's important to read the game, he does think some are going over the top with the 'sweeper-keeper' role:
"I think there are a lot of keepers who overdo that [trying to sweep up the danger].
"I think the most important thing is to give the team the feeling that there is a goalkeeper behind them who will give them safety and if there is an opposition player who is through on goal there is somebody there to save them.
"That will always be important but I think now you have to at least be able to kick with both feet because you are more integrated with the match.”
Germany seems to have an endless conveyor belt of talented goalkeepers, the historical icons being replaced by the current crop with the likes of Barcelona’s treble-winner Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Germany’s World Cup winner Manuel Neuer and Hannover 96’s player of the season Ron-Robert Zieler.
There must be something in the water for such a great array of stoppers. Or is there another secret? Rensing just believes the country takes the position of goalkeeper more seriously:
“I think Germany has always had good goalkeepers in the past and maybe they were role models for many young keepers," he said.
"All over Germany, the goalkeeper is seen as a very important position.
"So you are really well-supported, when I was young, there was at least two times a week a special training for goalkeepers.
"Maybe in England, the goalkeeper position is not as important but I think in Germany there is a good support for the goalkeepers and Germany has always had good goalkeepers because of that.
"So maybe young keepers wanted to be like Oliver Kahn and Toni Schumacher."
His old club, FC Bayern Munich, whom he represented for eight years, were the next topic of conversation.
Pep Guardiola’s side had a mixed season. Yes, they added a Bundesliga title - but defeat to Borussia Dortmund in the Super Cup and a late exit from the other competitions saw questions raised:
“I think Bayern Munich is always measured with titles and especially because the last few years have been so successful.
"They are measured by the Champions League, the Bundesliga and the German cup," Rensing begins.
“So this year they have ‘only’ won the German Championship, they lost in the semi-final of the cup to Borussia Dortmund on penalties which, you know, can happen so that is not a problem.
"And in the Champions League they lost again in the semi-final to Barcelona, who are maybe the other best team in this moment."
"So I don’t think it was a bad season, not at all. You have to see that there were a lot of injured players like [Arjen] Robben, [Franck] Ribery and [David] Alaba.
"It’s the same as if Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez or Neymar would be injured for Barcelona all at the same time.
"So that decreases the level of the team, then it’s more difficult for the team to perform well at the highest level.
"Players like Robben and Ribery can make those special moments and decide a match with just one action it gives the team self-confidence and increases the level.
"This season was good for them but they are measured in titles and so they need to attack the Champions League again next season."
He added, "I think Bayern Munich are really outstanding in the Bundesliga.
"There are a few clubs like Dortmund and Wolfsburg who have lots of money from Volkswagen and maybe Leverkusen who can make the season exciting but Bayern Munich play at another level.”
To round off the interview, he spoke about what makes his country’s top division so unique: “I think the German Bundesliga is one of the best leagues in the world."
He continued, "It has even become more attractive because of Bayern and Borussia Dortmund playing well in the Champions League, Germany won the World Championship and [Pep] Guardiola joined Bayern Munich so it became even more attractive.
"You always have full stadiums, almost every club has amazing, huge stadiums.
"It is the number one sport here in Germany, you can earn good money and you get your money every month and on time which is not the case in every country.
"All of those conditions make the Bundesliga very attractive.”
We thank Michael for his time and wish him the very best for the future.