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Marc Andre Ter Stegen: From the Monchengladbach academy to the first team of FC Barcelona

1.80K   //    24 Oct 2018, 01:00 IST

The great wall of Germany: Marc Andre Ter Stegen
The great wall of Germany: Marc Andre Ter Stegen

On a cold Spanish Sunday night at the Camp Nou, Sevilla and Barcelona played out an enthralling six-goal thriller with two separating the teams. The German keeper wearing his greens left the post that he was guarding, shook hands with his opponents and teammates and walked straight towards the tunnel without much ecstasy of the win. It was peculiar body language from Ter Stegen, perhaps he still dwelled over the deflected shot from Lenglet that beat him.

But that was no reason to bow down his head and exit quickly. After what he displayed on the pitch, he should have taken a bow in front of the Nou Camp and soaked in the acknowledgement from the Camp Nou.

Ter Stegen made two impossible double saves denying Sevilla a point on the night. The first one with a strong dive towards his right and recovering quickly to save a bullet from Franco Vazquez. In the 86th minute, he repeated a similar sequence, this time with a save off a shot from Sarabia and a rebound save from Ben Yedder. Although these saves from Ter Stegen might be seen as a lucky reflex, it is much more than that.

Ter Stegen isn’t getting half the recognition that De Gea got after his stupendous display against Arsenal last season. Possibly, Barcelona seem better than Manchester United in terms of defence, but still, Ter Stegen is boasting a very high save percentage.

The young German keeper’s path to prominence has not been an overnight journey. It wasn't always the case that he was a world class keeper. Ter Stegen grew up in the city of Monchengladbach playing football from a tender age of two. Along with his brother, little Marc played with his brother in a garage and was put into the Monchengladbach youth team by his grandfather.

Goalkeeping was never his cup of tea. He loved goals, goals and more goals. He loved to play forward but his coaches didn’t fancy him an attacker. Apparently, the Monchengladbach youth coaches and goalkeeper are the prime reason that he is a shot-stopper today. When little Marc was just 10, his coaches kept telling him that his running is mediocre.

Coincidentally, their youth team keeper kept getting a bloody nose and had to sit out one of the practice games. The coaches gave him two choices, either stay with Monchengladbach and play as a goalkeeper or leave and play wherever he likes in whatever way he likes. For ter Stegen, this was the city that he was born in, this is where he learned from day one and for the kid, staying with them was important.

“Staying at Monchengladbach is what mattered. And there was one simple reason: It was home”- Marc-Andre ter Stegen via The Players Tribune.

From the day he received the affirmation, ter Stegen stood between the sticks and it didn’t matter much to him. He was able to see the game in a much better way. His experience of playing as a forward increased his specialisation with the feet.

It made him much more suited for the role of a sweeper keeper that Johan Cruyff’s philosophy prefers. He is one of the best keepers with the feet and he helps the idea of playing from the back.

Ter Stegen has enjoyed goals ever since he was a kid. He enjoys them even now and he celebrates each and every goal as if he scored them. Marc was Monchengladbach first choice keeper in the 2010-11 while aged only 18. He was also called up to Germany’s national team as a backup to Neuer in 2012.

In 2012, Germany and Argentina faced off in a friendly. Manuel Neuer got himself sent off while conceding a penalty. Joachim Low took off Thomas Mueller to accommodate a new faced keeper aged 20 at that time. In only his second appearance for the national side, Ter Stegen was facing a spot-kick against Argentina.

Argentina’s No.10 Lionel Messi stepped up to take the penalty but it was saved with a dive towards the left-hand side by the young keeper. That is the determination that Ter Stegen possesses. No matter what the situation he stays calm and delivers.

In 2014, Marc Andre Ter Stegen got his big opportunity to play for a world class club. Having monitored the performances of the young keeper in the Bundesliga, Barcelona sent a special messenger to meet Ter Stegen in person. The messenger is none other than former club legend Andoni Zubizaretta who is a former Sporting Director at Barcelona.

The German left his home city of Monchengladbach for Barcelona. Ever since he has been a Cule in his own right. Ter Stegen himself revealed that he didn’t figure out what was with football and Barcelona. But even though he isn’t a product of La Masia, Ter Stegen now possesses an equal love for Barcelona that any kid from Masia has.

“I wear the Barcelona colours with pride. But it’s more than just football to me. This city, these fans … you never feel like you’re out there alone. You can’t be. It’s just not how it works here. You can’t turn inward. You can’t just figure it out on your own.”-Marc Andre Ter Stegen via The Players Tribune.

Ter Stegen was a backup for Claudio Bravo in the beginning but he integrated into the starting position once Bravo left for Manchester City. He made some blatant human errors leading to goals due to his high risk with the ball at his feet. He ended up conceding important goals against Roma in the Champions League, and against Bilbao in the 2015 Super Cup trying to improve his dimension as a sweeper keeper.

He has now learned from his mistakes and he is much better and very well in control of the ball when he is played in and under press. He has improved his reflexes through out the time that he spent as a first-team keeper.

Barcelona vs PSG, a game we all remember as the Neymar Jr. Match. 60 minutes into the game, Barcelona needed one more goal to go level on aggregate and PSG rubbed salt in Barcelona’s wounds. Edinson Cavani smashed the ball in from close range and PSG thought they had the lid dropped on Barcelona.

Ter Stegen ordered his defence to move into attacking positions and not worry about him. Minutes later Cavani came storming in a 1v1 with Ter Stegen, and the Uruguayan came out second best. In the final moment of the game, Marco Verratti could have held possession thus taking his team home on away goals.

Ter Stegen made an interception from Verratti to win the ball back and passed to Neymar. We all know what Neymar did next. Does anyone acknowledge the German keeper’s role in the Remontada?

Real Madrid vs Barcelona, April 2017 at the Santiago Bernabeu. Lionel Messi’s 92nd-minute winner, the iconic shirt celebration, the cacophony of the Madridistas, the demonic run from Sergi Roberto, everything flashes across the mind. Does Ter Stegen’s big save off Benzema’s free header flash into our minds?

Or do the saves he made against Asensio and Ronaldo prior to that occupy our thoughts? That is the disadvantage of being a goalkeeper. Ter Stegen’s mistakes which led to goals made him an overrated star for everyone but his heroics which have saved Barcelona every night doesn’t make him revered.

He not only guards the sticks, but he is also Barcelona’s main man in building from the back, distributing balls perfectly and helping his teammates with the offside trap. Even if the trap is beaten, Ter Stegen is quick off his lines and he reduces the goal-scoring angle to deny the striker. His importance to Barcelona is inexhaustible. At this time when goalkeepers are being sold for over £75 million to £80 million, Barcelona got this kid for a mere 12 million euros.

Leaving Monchengladbach was perhaps one of the toughest decisions that the German had to take. But in return, he found another home. He found a home outside Monchengladbach where he is considered the best. He is at a home, where people cheer his saves and people value his major passes and reflexes. Ter Stegen is giving everything that he has got in his arsenal for Barcelona. He is still improvising.

He was the only player that kept Barcelona in the hunt against Roma last year till the 84th minute and he is the reason that Barcelona won at the Anoeta earlier this season when Valverde decided to play defensively towards the end. He is the reason that an immaculate talent like Jasper Cillesen has to be benched at Barcelona. He is the man due to whom Valverde boasted an extraordinary defensive record and was praised as a manager with a solid 4-4-2 defence. It wasn’t a solid 4-4-2 defence, it was a German wall that was the reason for the good record.

Ter Stegen has been terribly underrated for his talent and if he was in the Premier League, he would get much more recognition. The German wall had to crawl his way through to the Camp Nou but he isn’t leaving. This is home to him and he is family to Barcelona fans.

He might be the “German keeper for Barcelona” for many but he is much more than that to Cules. They see in him what others see in De Gea, Courtois and Ederson combined. Ability to save, control the ball with the feet and keep cool even when the team is defensive, he combines all these abilities.

Marc Andre Ter Stegen has reached a level of prominence that we all should celebrate. Thank you for everything till now Marc Andre Ter Stegen, keep improvising.