Freiburg goalkeeper Mark Flekken gestures against Hoffenheim. (Photo by Tom Weller/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Mark Flekken plays an integral role in the success of SC Freiburg this season. After 21 games, Freiburg sits just outside of the Champions League positions at fifth with 33 points. Qualification for Europe’s biggest club competition would be a first for the Breisgau-Brasilianer.

In 2018, Freiburg finished their season at fifteenth in the Bundesliga. Just this past season, Freiburg improved its final standing to tenth. Now, the the club jostles against Union Berlin, Köln, Hoffenheim RB Leipzig and Eintracht Frankfurt for a spot in Europe.

Freiburg keeper Mark Flekken is one of the main factors keeping Freiburg in the upper echelon of the Bundesliga. The Dutchman is having a remarkable season with his side. In fact, his performances exemplify one of the best keepers in the Bundesliga, if not all of Europe.

However, Flekken and Freiburg cannot celebrate yet. Freiburg must remain steadfast in the Bundesliga to accomplish its goals. Similar to the way Mark Flekken waited years to get to his current position.

Mark Flekken rises up the goalkeeper ladder

Mark Flekken, born in Kerkrade, Netherlands, is one of Freiburg’s most recognizable faces. Although born outside of Germany, the 28-year-old only represented clubs based in Germany. The first was Alemannia Aachen, now a semi-professional soccer club.

Then, Flekken moved to the reserve team of Greuther Furth after a season with Alemannia. He steadily worked up in the ranks to reach the senior squad.

Although he did not see many minutes with the now-Bundesliga club, he landed a loan deal with 3. Liga side MSV Duisburg.

Soccer fans first heard Flekken’s name here. Yet, Flekken it would not be in the way Flekken expected.

Burst on to the stage, accidentally

Mark Flekken told Don’t Play Play about his most infamous moment between the sticks.

“We scored the second goal. The fans were celebrating. The goal music was going. At the moment, I had also just saved a penalty. You begin to think nothing can still go wrong today. 30 seconds later, it did. While the players were celebrating, I turned around and calmly walked into the goal.

“I wanted to take a sip from the bottle. I don’t even think I had the bottle in my hand before someone behind the goal started shouting, ‘Turn around already! They are coming!’

“I turned around and the ball was already in my goal.”

Flekken can look back and laugh at the moment, just as thousands of others did.

Major moves

Yet, that unfortunate moment did not demonstrate Flekken’s clumsiness. Flekken posted extraordinary numbers for Duisburg, amassing over 213 saves and 24 clean sheets over 68 games.

“I needed that development. Not just as a goalkeeper, a footballer but also as a person. Over the years, I matured to become the person that sits here now,” Flekken said about his time outside of the Bundesliga.

Flekken secured a transfer to Freiburg, albeit as a backup for Alexander Schwolow. He suffered an elbow injury in his first season and seldom played in his next season.

Yet, with a lot of patience, he became the first-choice keeper following Schwolow’s departure. Fortunately for both sides, he filled his predecessor’s sport brilliantly.

Fast-forward numerous games, and Flekken emerged as one of the top goalkeepers in Europe.

Mark Flekken Playstyle

Journalists everywhere recognize Flekken as one of the best goalkeepers showing his skills in the Bundesliga. He can do this courtesy of his extraordinary athleticism and solid build. At 6’4′, his frame helps him reach the four corners of the net and everywhere in between.

Flekken is also a very skilled passer. His pass completion rate of 69.7% may not look like a world-beater statistic. Yet, upon closer inspection, he succeeds where he needs to.

He averages 98.4% and 99.5% on short and medium passes, respectively. He completes long passes just above half the time, at 51.8%. Flekken helps Freiburg get off to quick counter-attacks and anchors them defensively.

Four important numbers

Mark Flekken’s season is shaping up to be a fantastic one. He looks born ready for the Bundesliga, and his remarkable stat line affirms this.

  • 80.5 save percentage

Flekken has the best save percentage out of all Bundesliga keepers and ranks seventh out of all Big 5 League keepers in the same stat category, according to FBREF. His dependability makes his Freiburg side a more lethal and defensively solid side.

  • 7 clean Sheets

Flekken, assisted by a compact defense, is tied-first in the Bundesliga in this category. His clean sheets are propelling Freiburg to fifth place in the Bundesliga. He will need to continue his good form to keep earning clean sheets.

  • .89 goals Allowed per 90

This stat measures the goals allowed every ninety minutes. Flekken’s goals against per 90 is tied for lowest in the Bundesliga and is one of the least in Europe. This eye-opening number shows his elite quality.

  • 788 touches

Flekken is a big part of a well-oiled Freiburg machine, both offensively and defensively. His whopping 788 touches, eighth-most out of all Freiburg players, mean he is frequently involved in the game. Flekken will add to his total as Freiburg pushes for a European spot domestically.

Important upcoming matches

Augsburg on Feb. 19 (Bundesliga)

Augsburg falls squarely in a three-game Bundesliga run against mediocre clubs. Freiburg hosts tenth-placed Mainz on Saturday, Feb. 12. Then, Flekken and company travel to Augsburg to play a side in danger of relegation. Finally, 13th-placed Hertha Berlin travels to the Europa-Park Stadion to play Freiburg.

Nicknamed the Fuggerstädter, Augsburg sits at 16th due to a bland and inefficient defense.

Although the focus will be on Freiburg’s attackers, this is a chance for Flekken to make a case for his first cap and bolster his stats.

Bochum on March 2 (DFB-Pokal)

This season’s DFB-Pokal poses a legitimate chance for silverware for Freiburg. Bochum, Freiburg’s opponent in the quarterfinals, looks to pull off an upset when it hosts the Breisgau-Brasilianer.

Freiburg will look to exploit an inconsistent Bochum side, and Flekken will look to hold his team tight and keep the goal safe from any scores. When these two sides met earlier in the season, Bochum picked up a dramatic come-from-behind victory.

Germany on March 29 (international break)

Flekken could be in line for a call-up, if not a cap, in the March international break. The Netherlands scheduled two games ahead of its Nations League debut. One of them will be against World Cup-qualified side Denmark. The other will be against a dominant German side.

The result will be an entertaining rivalry match where Mark Flekken could earn his first cap. He will need to overtake Valencia keeper Jasper Cillessen and Norwich stopper Tim Krul to see a start in the German-Dutch soccer rivalry.

It is time to put aside the “drinking goalie” memes and articles populating Google search results.

Mark Flekken is one of the best goalkeepers in the Bundesliga right now, and he has the potential to take Freiburg to the next level.