Somebody was pretending to be Jens Lehmann, and Jens Lehmann didn’t like it. After all, he was Jens Lehmann, and not some impostor! In a German rage rendered ever more chilling by the seeming calmness of its delivery, he stood upon the mountain, and sent out a warning to whoever happened to be passing by. ‘This is Jens Lehmann’s tweet,’ he announced. ‘Every other person who is pretending to act as Jens Lehmann has to stop doing so.’
Soon enough, he had found one of his imitators. ‘Every other person who is pretending to act as Jens Lehmann, the former professional football player, has to stop misleading his supporters,’ he whispered directly into the soul of those faceless men wearing masks of the retired goalkeeper. ‘These persons will be prosecuted unless they do not stop acting in the name of Jens Lehmann.’
Everything is still for a week or so. The Earth grinds slowly on its axis, and the occasional bird makes a sound. Out of respect, fear for his life and as a result of not being selected, Manuel Almunia does not play. The absolute silence is terrifying. Then, very suddenly, someone snaps a twig and Lehmann emerges from the woodland.
‘This is Jens Lehmann again,’ he declares, his goalkeeping gloves drenched in blood and splintered with fingernails. ‘The person who acts as being me will be prosecuted now.’ The next tweet comes a few months later, with the German proclaiming the weather in Berlin to be fine, and then there is no more.
Jens Lehmann is renowned for his allegedly questionable psychological constitution. He confused and delighted the masses with his bizarre in-game campaign against the hybridisation of football and dramatic theatre, and has long been an advocate of the ‘Make Ludicrous Red Cards Not War’ movement. He’s relieved himself behind advertising hoardings, thrown an opposing player’s boot on the roof of the net, and picked fights with every respected goalkeeper in the known universe, and Manuel Almunia. I wouldn’t want to stray into the murky seas of libel, but Jens Lehmann owns a helicopter, has two children, and may well be mental. But you knew that, of course.
It would be easy to believe that the player is only a fractured reflection of the man, and Lehmann’s decision to open up a Twitter account has served to dispel any notion that he has one side of himself reserved for the field, and the other for playing with his children and being a normal father. The relatively unthreatening profile picture that accompanies his tweets barely conceals the murderous glint in his eye. He doesn’t interact with his near 30,000 followers, and that’s almost exactly as you’d expect. He is a rogue; tweeting for the hell of it. One day Twitter will burn to retweets of ‘This is Jens Lehmann’s tweet. Say goodbye to your families.’
Unlike Michael Owen, whose semi-regular reports on racing steed and rivers in his garden are enough to turn the world grey, Lehmann’s sporadic updates on Bavarian weather leave the door open for a follow-up tweet that booms ‘And it will rain blood and fire tomorrow, for I control the elements.’ It’s not just what he writes, it’s the fact that he’s the one writing it.
Only the other day, as he was crushing the skull of a local goalkeeper, his wild strikes found the keyboard of his computer, and in a series of revealing tweets he wrote ’ ÖO@j jjtj’, ’ D&Fgedw’ and then a single ‘I’. It’s entirely feasible that one of his children was careless palming the keyboard, or his account was hacked and the resulting tweets were not the upshot of a head being slammed against a desk, but I like the first story better, and I suspect that most others would, too.
He’s German too, which helps us to create an entirely glorious image of who Jens Lehmann is, and what he means when he says things. His nationality makes his first foray into the Twitterverse all the more sinister. When he writes ‘I had to get that @lehmann_official guy out as he pretended being me. Regards, Jens’, he’s dictating the message to his manservant as smoke drips out of the end of his rifle, having just shot and killed the poor @lehmann_official, because he’s German, and we have already formed our opinions of him. A sentence like that wouldn’t be nearly as interesting if it had come from the mouth – well, the fingers – of an Englishman.
Lehmann has mastered Twitter, simply by virtue of being Jens Lehmann. If we can abandon the possibility that he’s misunderstood, and is actually a normal, upstanding member of society, then we can state without any doubt that we know exactly who Jens Lehmann is – that is to say, a veritable madman. When he writes ‘Competition makes the strong players better and lets the weak ones struggle’, he is simply making an observation as the Germans stormed towards defeat to Italy in the semifinals of Euro 2012, but his words are laced with a menacing undertone.
A statement made on a Euro 2012 show is criticised as being ‘an unworthy comment’, the 4-4 draw against Sweden is a lesson of ‘German miscommunication’. He describes offensive football as ‘wonderful’, but he’d probably use the same word when detailing a death by bludgeoning. His English lexicon isn’t expansive, but he is brutally efficient in getting his point across, true to the conventional image.
Two planets collide to create one of the best Twitter accounts there is: Jens Lehmann’s image, and Jens Lehmann’s mind. @jenslehmann probably doesn’t tell us a great deal more about the man than what we had already thought we knew, but when it comes down to it, that’s just what we want.
Max Grieve is a football writer and the editor of the excellent A Football Report. He can be found on Twitter here.