Fulham have confirmed the signing of goalkeeper Bernd Leno, from Arsenal. The fee is undisclosed, but reported to be around £3m. Arsenal had initially wanted around £11m, but were forced to soften their stance in order to complete the deal.
The structure of the deal does raise the price slightly:
- £3m upfront.
- £1m on number of Premier League appearances.
- £2m if Fulham stays in the Premier League once.
- £2m if they remain in the Premier League twice.
The player has signed a three-year contract, with the option for a fourth.
Leno has been Arsenal’s number 1 goalkeeper ever since joining from Bayer Leverkusen in 2018, however, the German shot-stopper spent last season as the club’s de-facto no. 2 after the signing of Aaron Ramsdale from Sheffield United, who will now likely take the departing Leno’s number 1.
The goalkeeper had travelled with the squad to their Nuremberg training base, however, the transfer became more advanced over the week and was therefore not selected for the team’s rousing 3-5 win over 1. FC Nürnberg, with the club not wanting to risk the potential for an injury, though no transfer took place, the same for the tour of the USA.
Leno had been subject to interest from the Bundesliga as well, but wished to remain in London, with Fulham making him the club’s priority target between the sticks, after losing out to Brentford in their pursuit of Thomas Strakosha.
Though a firm fan-favourite and a highly-rated goalkeeper to have on the bench, Leno wanted first-team opportunities and the chance to become the number 1 elsewhere, especially with the impending 2022 World Cup in December.
Leno was one of the club’s first official signings of the post-Arsène Wenger era. Though that honour can technically be bestowed upon Stephan Lichtsteiner, Leno was the first piece of business that Arsenal completed for money.
Joining from Bundesliga side Bayer 04 Leverkusen for a fee of £22.5m, Leno was immediately the club’s first-choice goalkeeper. The impending retirement of Petr Čech meant that Leno would likely have to wait until the end of the season before taking over full-time, being handed the number 19 shirt in the process.
Leno was initially signed as then Head of Recruitment Sven Mislintat aimed to bolster Unai Emery’s side. Leno came highly-recommended with his shot-stopping abilities and his knack for playing witht he ball at his feet, something Čech severely lacked.
After a freak-injury to Čech, Leno took over as the main goalkeeper throughout the rest of the Spaniard’s tenure.
After Emery’s dismissal, Leno was again first-choice under new manager Mikel Arteta. Leno was a mainstay of Arteta’s side until he clashed with Neal Maupay in an ill-fated 2-1 defeat to Brighton & Hove Albion, where the German was injured, paving the way for Emiliano Martínez to take over in his absence.
Though Martínez impressed in the role, he was eventually sold to Aston Villa for £20m, allowing Leno to gain the number 1 spot back.
Despite having the assurances of Mikel Arteta, Leno’s form began to take a nosedive.
The porous nature of Arsenal’s defence, coupled with several high-calibre blunders were enough to convince Mikel Arteta that a change was needed, bringing in Sheffield United’s Aaron Ramsdale last summer, citing Ramsdale’s command of his penalty area and his long-range distribution as being the main reasons behind the signing.
Leno lurked mainly on the bench, but for the occasional runout in cup competitions and one league match, in which he produced a spectacular punch in stoppage time to preserve a win for the club.
For his part, Leno has been highly professional. The German accepted that his place was lost to Ramsdale and fought tooth and nail to win it back, but in the end, Arsenal needed a more robust pair of hands between the sticks.
Leno is not the first departure from the club this summer, but is expected to trigger something of an exodus. Héctor Bellerín continues to pine for Real Betis, while multiple clubs have enquired as to the availability of Ainsley Maitland-Niles, however, the futures of Pablo Marí and Lucas Torreira look to be sorted soon.