Germany's former number one keeper will have to sit out three matches after a stamping incident in Sunday's game at Mainz. It's not the first outburst from Lehmann this year, and critics are questioning his future.
Lehmann has cut a lonely figure as of late
The German football association (DFB) sent an unequivocal message of "cut it out" to Stuttgart goalkeeper Jens Lehmann on Wednesday, suspending him from the club's next three matches.
On Sunday, just when it looked like Stuttgart was going to snap out of its funk and win its first league match since September, Jens Lehmann went and stole defeat from the jaws of victory.
Still fuming from Aristide Bance's having bundled into him earlier in the match, Lehmann collected a loose ball in his area in the dying minutes of the match, calmly approached the Mainz striker - and trod on his left boot with his right one.
Referee Wolfgang Stark sent Lehmann off, and awarded Mainz a penalty - which they converted, and thus drew the match.
Stuttgart will now have to wait until this weekend's southwest derby against Hoffenheim to try and snap their winless streak, and won't be able to call Lehmann into action. His next game back won't be until the club's home match against Borussia Dortmund on January 31, 2010.
The DFB disciplinary commission said their harsh 3-match ban was justified because Lehmann's act had been “deliberate.”
Out of control
The suspension brings an early close to a wild first half of the season for the onetime German international, one in which scarcely a few weeks went by without incident.
In September, Lehmann was suspended by his club for nipping off after a league match to Munich, where he was spotted enjoying himself with a one-liter 'mass' mug of beer at Oktoberfest.
In the next league match at Frankfurt, Lehmann shoved a photographer out of his way as he was walking into the locker room.
In October, the former Arsenal man got into a dispute with a ball boy in Hanover, who he claimed wasn't providing quick enough service when it was time for Stuttgart to put the ball back in play.
Lehmann's words sometimes get him in trouble
But the second week of December saw a veritable pile-up of tantrums from Lehmann. First, he gave a television interview in which he called out club management for bowing to the “pressure of a group of adolescent fans” in firing Markus Babbel. For this statement, he was fined 40,000 euros ($60,000), which he has as yet refused to pay.
Later in the week Lehman made world headlines (and highlight reels) for sneaking off the pitch during a Champions League game against Unirea Urziceni to urinate against the advertising boards.
Sunday's stamp on Bance came next, but Lehmann wasn't done for the day. Making a hurried exit from the stadium, Lehmann was confronted by a fan who asked him “why can't you just be normal?”
Lehmann responded not with an answer, but by snatching the man's glasses off his face and refusing to give them back. After the fan followed him for several meters, Lehmann put the man's glasses in another person's hands and stomped off.
Worst of all for Lehmann, the episode was caught live by television cameras.
Until recently, Lehmann's past heroics in goal for Germany (whom he led to the semifinal of the World Cup in 2006, and the final of Euro 2008) - and the fact that he has said this is his last season - have meant he has earned a pass from fans and heavyweights of the German game. Now, however, the tide is turning.
“It's not good, and it sets a bad example,” said Matthias Sammer, the DFB's sporting director, who coached Lehmann in Dortmund. “He's got to learn to channel his frustration in another way, not let his emotions get the better of him.”
Sepp Maier, who was Lehmann's goalkeeping coach with the German national side, said Lehmann apparently “hadn't learned a thing” over the years and was therefore a legend leaving the game “not to roses, but to anger” from opposing fans.
Maier dismissed the criticism that Lehmann's old rival for the German number one spot, Oliver Kahn, was just as prone to coming unhinged.
“The rubbish it took Kahn 20 years to get up to, Lehmann is fitting into one year,” said Maier.
Kahn was no pussycat himself
Kahn himself spoke out as well on Lehmann's recent patch in an interview with Munich's Abendzeitung tabloid.
He said he “didn't know what was going on” with Lehmann, and that his antics, which seemed to "continue every week” had become “bizarre.”
Kahn, who was never known to be particularly friendly with Lehmann during their playing careers, saved the most incendiary bit for last:
“Perhaps he'll hold up a mirror to himself,” said Kahn, and ask “What am I doing here? Maybe it would be better for him to retire now. Who knows?”
Even if Lehmann isn't ready to jump ship from football, his behavior may end up getting him pushed. The well-connected Bild tabloid reported Wednesday that Lehmann's new coach at Stuttgart, Christian Gross, has privately given him an ultimatum: one more ‘incident' and you're out.
Author: Matt Hermann
Editor: Trinity Hartman