Neuer: I looked up to Lehmann

Veteran Arsenal goalkeeper Jens Lehmann has waded into the upheaval surrounding the future of Schalke 04’s goalkeeper Manuel Neuer by claiming the Gunners have been tracking his progress since 2004.

Neuer has been subject of much transfer speculation in recent months due to the German stopper’s reluctance to sign a new deal with the Gelsenkirchen-based side.

Manchester United are believed to be among the interested parties looking to tempt the 25-year-old from the Bundesliga, with his impressive performance against the Red Devils last week further fuelling reports that the German custodian would be a perfect replacement for the retiring Edwin van der Sar.

And Lehmann has spoken of watching a young Neuer playing before his rise to prominence.

“I saw an under-19 game and he was great,” he said. “At the time I also had meetings with our chief scout once a week and he told me he had spotted a really good goalkeeper: Manuel Neuer.

"My goalkeeping coach had him watched and there was even talk about Arsenal trying to sign him.”

Speaking to the Guardian, Neuer demonstrated that there is a shared fondness between Lehmann and himself, with the experienced stopper helping the Schalke keeper to model his own game.

“I always looked up to Jens. First of all he played for Schalke and I was always impressed by his way of playing and his charisma," he said.

“He is an attacking goalkeeper. I used to come early to home games when I was little to watch Jens warm up. He was quite innovative and he did exercises during warm-ups that I hadn't seen anyone else do before.”

Neuer has openly confirmed that he is refusing to sign a new deal with his current club, leaving his options for a move this summer firmly in his hands.

After a stellar showing in Schalke's Champions League semi-final first leg that restricted Sir Alex Ferguson's side to just two goals, he will have the opportunity to impress the Scot again at Old Trafford on Wednesday.

However, German giants Bayern Munich remain the hot favourites to secure his signature, with many pundits of the opinion that a deal with the Allianz Arena outfit has already been struck.

By Killian Woods