Real Sociedad wanted it. They desperately wanted to win this tie of Supercopa de Espana against Barcelona. They started their campaign bright but somehow the lack of depth on the bench, injuries and inexperience caught them. Yesterday it was a mammoth German wall in Infront of them. They played their heart out and even came back on the match after a calm penalty strike from Mikel Oyarzabal. Barcelona couldn’t hold on to their lead given by Frenkie De Jong. Both the team played their heart out. The match halted in a draw even after extra times. The penalty shootout was on the table and Real Sociedad had a German wall obstructing them. It was none other than Marc-Andre Ter Stegen.
Barcelona played well throughout the match. But not enough to win it. They looked off-color in some patches. But it was all in the hands of Ter Stegen. Jon Bautista failed to go past him in the first kick of the shootout. The pressure got the better of Frenkie De Jong. He failed to convert the penalty kick. But Ter Stegen was not bothered. I got you covered said the German and calm as you like stopped Oyarzabal’s spot-kick also. The same Oyarzabal who scored the equalizer from the penalty spot. Real Sociedad was on the verge of a collapse. Willian Jose hit the post. The pressure got the better of him but not Riqui Puig. The 16 years old scored a brave penalty to seal Barcelona’s spot in the final of Supercopa de España. Yes, De Jong and Griezmann both missed their kick. But it was the German who kept Barca in the game. The German prevailed in the pressure situation and won it for Barcelona. It’s not a new sight for Barcelona, that a day was saved because of the brilliance of Ter Stegen. The past 3-4 seasons have been an exhibition of world-class goalkeeping at Barcelona. The rise of Ter Stegen was not a story of one-day brilliance. It was a story of perseverance and grinding through the ranks. He suffered much humiliation in recent times but the man stood his ground. Despite interests from top clubs in the world, he decided to stay at a club with a sporting crisis and financial overload.
Who is Marc Andre Ter Stegen? How he became the most sought-after Goalkeeper in the world?
“When I first began playing football I was a striker. I loved scoring goals. I played to score goals. It’s what made me happy. So I went and played keeper and … I liked it. There wasn’t any big realization or change for me. I didn’t all of a sudden fall in love with goalkeeping, but … it was fun.”
That’s the whole story of Marc Andre Ter Stegen if you like it. A striker turned into a goalkeeper. In 2016 After Real Madrid’s game against Espanyol in the league, a curious observation was made by Diario Sport. Ter Stegen had more successful dribbles than Cristiano Ronaldo that season. While the statistic itself doesn’t mean anything but the social amusement was quite something else. Ter Stegen slowly made his mark at Barcelona. Despite not having a great team, Barcelona won two consecutive La Ligas in the 2017-18 and 2018-19 season. Major credit goes to Ter Stegen for that. While their defense was serenaded by the teams in Europe, Ter Stegen kept their domestic game alive. If Messi was scoring goals left right up front, then Ter Stegen was saving goals like nothing.
After the departure of Victor Valdes, young Ter Stegen was brought in from Borussia Monchengladbach in 2014-15. But an injury driven starting to the career at Camp Nou sidelined him from league goalkeeping. The German was the first choice keeper for Barcelona in Copa Del Rey and Champions League. His most spectacular moment of that season was a "goal-line" save vs Bayern Munich, in the second leg of the Champions League semi-final which earned him the "Best Save" award for his spectacular. He went on to keep the Final against Juventus and won it 3-1. In his first year, he won the treble with Barcelona. A dream debut for the German.
In the 2015-16 season, he was still not the first choice keeper for the league. Experienced Claudio Bravo was the trusted one. Luis Enrique’s rotation policy denied him the chance of being the first choice. But in the 2016-17 season, he was made the first choice keeper after the departure of Bravo. It was a weird season for him. He was criticized for his excessive risk taking ball distribution. He was acrobatic and fearless. In a champions league game, Ter Stegen gave away a penalty and saved the penalty from Moussa Dembélé against Celtic. His error led to their 4-3 loss against Celta Vigo which eventually cost them their League title to Real Madrid. But then again he had 12 saves in a 3–2 victory at the Santiago Bernabéu against Real Madrid at El Clásico that season. His impressive display against Paris Saint Germain in their comeback 6-1 victory at Champions League earned him good reviews also. In that season Ter Stegen completed one dribble against Athletic Bilbao that season which stopped the hearts of Barcelona fans for a minute. Their goalkeeper picks the ball up 15 yards outside his own penalty area, takes it back towards his goal under pressure from a forward, before circling around at pace to surge away from his would-be tackler and start an attack. This incident defines that season for Ter Stegen.
Albert Masnou, a sub-director at Sport, wrote an opinion piece on Ter Stegen, calling him "Xavi with gloves". Ter Stegen has German DNA. His national counterpart Manuel Neuer was also hailed as capable of playing as a midfielder. One day Ter Stegen would be a worthy successor of the GreatNeuerfor Germany for sure.
Even though he was criticized but he didn’t change his style. He was brave and his style of play suited Barcelona who always loved to play out from the back.
"Sorry if my way of playing makes you nervous, but that’s how I play,"
The German goalkeeper’s passing range is insane. He is able to pick out his team-mates with passes accurate to the millimeter, something that a few players in his position can do. When you look at Thibaut Courtois in Real Madrid who also likes to play out from the back, you will see the limited range of passing from Courtois. It's usually to the sideways. But with Ter Stegen Barcelona have that luxury of playing out from the back at a better pace. Where Stegen excels is making the same passes under pressure.
Ter Stegen is the goalkeeper Pep Guardiola craves, even though he ended up with Claudio Bravo at Manchester City. Soon Guardiola went on to sign Ederson, a keeper with a similar profile.
The 2017-18 La Liga title-winning season was the best season for him. Not only they won the league but also won Supercopa de Espana where Ter Stegen saved a penalty against Sevilla in the final. Barcelona won Copa Del Rey also that season. Ter Stegen had an impressive season.
Next season (2018-19) Barcelona also won the league but their 4-0 humiliation against Liverpool at Anfield overshadowed his impressive stats in the league. Barcelona bottled their 3-0 lead in the first leg and had one of the best matches of the season. But at Anfield, he endured one of the most embarrassing defeats in Barcelona’s recent history. Ter Stegen was also criticized for their horrible corner defending when Barcelona’s whole defense line went to sleep for a moment.
In the 2019-20 season, he provided an assist to Luis Suárez for the first goal in a 2–0 away win over Getafe, becoming the first Barcelona goalkeeper to provide an assist in La Liga in the 21st Century. He was the standout performer that season. That season Barcelona used him more in build-up play. Most teams use 10 players for their build-up. Barcelona started using 11 players in their build-up. There were occasional hiccups but their style of play got a new dimension. That season he provided another assist to Antoine Griezmann against Mallorca in a 5-2 victory. But a horrific 8-2 defeat against Bayern Munich in the Champions League and a trophyless season again overshadowed his brilliance in the whole season. Barcelona must thank him for his unflinching saves in the dying moments of the game. Barcelona endured a defensive crisis in that season. But Ter Stegen kept them alive in the league race.
Players like Ter Stegen, Neuer are free spirits. You better let them do what they want. They will mistake sometimes but when they are in their song, it is impossible to get past them. Rather than restricting them, let them play their game. Ter Stegen misjudged a clearance against Atletico Madrid in their league match this season and conceded the only goal of the game. But that should not be the point of prolonged criticism of him. Rather than that game he hardly put a foot wrong. He is insane but he is stylish. But there is no doubt that Marc Andre Ter Stegen is one of kind.