One of the things that in my eyes confuses a lot of people is that a player must be good because he is on a good team. There are circumstances that can come into play that will ultimately make middle of the pack players starters on very good teams. In many of these cases what we see are home grown players that moved up through the ranks at a club. Ultimately their play is competent enough at least in the eyes of management to hold down a position. A lot of times this is good for management as it allows them to save money that they can go spend on different positions. This had been the case for years at Goalkeeper in Barcelona.
For most of the people that have only started watching the game recently the post of goalkeeper at Barcelona was held down by Victor Valdes, and then Marc Andre Ter Stegen with a little bit of Claudio Bravo and Jose Manuel Pinto sprinkled in. Valdes was the perfect poster child for the type of situation that I was referring to. A player who was able to carve out a career as the Goalkeeper for Barcelona, in without a doubt the most successful run the team has ever had. Without he is an individual player being nowhere near the A-list talent that many of his teammates throughout his tenure were. He held down the position through the very successful Frank Rijkaard all the way through seemingly the end of the Pep Guardiola era and a bit beyond.
The days of Barcelona allowing middle of the pack goalkeepers to stick around seem to be long gone with the arrival and emergence of Marc Andre Ter Stegen. Before I get into what makes the german goalkeeper so special, I want to give you a sneak peek of what you can expect to see in this article. Mainly a description of the type of goalkeepers that Barcelona’s 3 top options happen to be. As well as what we can expect for the role of goalkeeper at Barcelona moving forward.
Starting Goalkeeper Barcelona 2021 : Marc Andre Ter Stegen
When Marc Andre Ter Stegen arrived at Barcelona in 2014 nobody really knew what to expect. It seemed that the starting job was going to be held down by Chilean international Claudio Bravo. Who at the time was a La Liga veteran having a successful stint at Real Sociedad before his move to Barcelona. I’m sure there were some fans of the german in Cataluña when he arrived, but they were probably few and far between. However, from the get go it seemed that Bravo and Ter Stegen were polar opposites. With Bravo you could always count on him having a colossal blunder that could cost you a game eventually. While, from the beginning the german showed that he had some of the softest hands in the world.
In the beginning Bravo was tasked with playing pretty much all of the La Liga matches while Ter Stegen was relegated to playing Copa Del Rey fixtures and Champions League matches. He actually did not make his La Liga debut until his second season at Barcelona. Even though he went his whole first year outperforming Bravo. As I mentioned, not only from the stats, but from what I can vividly recall from those years it was clear that the goalkeeper role at Barcelona was much better covered in those cup games than with the Chilean in La Liga. Even though this seemed to be evident it took almost two full years for management to give up on Bravo entirely and name Ter Stegen Barcelona’s number one option.
Today Marc Andre Ter Stegen is without a doubt one of the top goalkeepers in the world. Some of the same characteristics that allowed him to out shine Claudio Bravo in his early Barca years are still on full display. He is not a goalkeeper who is going to play off the line much or try and catch a lot of crosses. Between the sticks though he is arguably the best there is in the world today. His two main attributes are the soft hands and the almost circus like save capacity. He is not afraid to use certainly unorthodox diving techniques at times. Well, it’s not that the technique is unorthodox, it’s just that he is able to bend his body and react to close balls in a way most human beings just can’t. I feel very safe saying that Marc Andre Ter Stegen is the best goalkeeper Barcelona have had in my lifetime.
Second String Goalkeeper Barcelona 2021: Neto
There are very few second string goalkeepers of this quality in Europe. I think that Barcelona was fed up with having middle of the pack goalkeepers at best for years so they really went out and got themselves a pair of goalkeepers that can hold down the position on any given day and have no trouble. In my eyes, at least in Spain there are maybe three or four team tops that Neto would not be starting for. This leads me to my first wave of criticism for Neto. He likes good pay and decent job security over playing time. That’s the only logical conclusion that you can come to when you look at his career choices.
He played in Brazil really for only one year before he made the move to Fiorentina. He developed in Florence for 3 years with minimal playing time. Up until this point, it’s all ok he came to Europe with minimal playing experience from Brazil. In his fourth year he takes the starting spot and holds it down for 2 years with decent results. Then he makes a move to Juventus only to sit behind Gianluigi Buffon. You can sort of cut him some slack there, you could think he thought Buffon was going to be on the decline and he’d step in. Like they allowed Szecseny to do. It just didn’t pan out so he moved to Valencia where he again proved his worth. This move to Barcelona though kind of proves he’d rather sit on the bench and collect a check than compete.
What are his talents in goal? He is very much a between the sticks goalkeeper. In fact I would say more than most. He is one of those guys that would get hit in the head by the cross bard if it ever fell from the goal. He relies on his height and long arms to make saves between the sticks. For a guy with such long arms he doesn’t have the softest hands though. You’re going to see him deflect a lot of balls. Something that is in direct contrast with what Ter Stegen brings to the table. When they pass back to him and he has to use his feet he doesn’t look overly comfortable. In fact, he’s had some mistakes because of this. That ultimately ended up in goals conceded.
Third & Fourth String Options Goalkeeper Barcelona
I want to take time on this, and not just brush over what we can expect from Iñaki Peña, and Arnau Tenas who are the 2 young goalkeepers that occupy the third and fourth spots in the Goalkeeper at Barcelona options. With Iñaki Peña what it seems that you’re getting at least in my view is the solid tall goalkeeper. I have to say I’m making the judgment off of a couple of videos that I saw, but I think that in itself helps me make this point. Peña looks like a prototype goalkeeper that you can count on to be solid in goal. If we were paring them to the top options Peña would be Neto. He is a solid goalkeeper that you can watch play and get the feeling that he knows what he’s doing. Yet, there seems to be nothing special about Peña.
On the other hand you have Arnau Tenas. He is 2 years younger than Peña, a goalkeeper born in 2001. You can almost see that Tenas grew up wanting to emulate Ter Stegen. He was 13 years old when Ter Stegen arrived in Barcelona with the circus saves and awesome looking dives. That’s what jumps out to you on film with Tenas. There are two options here either what I’m saying is true and Tenas has more big save ability than Peña or Tenas just so happens to have a better film editor. Which can also be true, because you can’t see anything too special from Peña’s highlight reel.
This brings me to my next point, it’s really hard to stand out as a goalkeeper. At this point in both of the careers of these young men we have no clue how they are going to turn out. Yet, for Peña it can be a bit harder to jump off the page and wow someone if he’s ever looking for a new team. While Tenas is probably going to get a lot more offers if he ever has to leave the club. That’s not to say one goalkeeper is better than the other. Most serious coaches actually prefer their goalkeepers to be the dull safe kind. If you’re trying to stand out as a goalkeeper it’s always going to help to have a great highlight reel. If you can’t be consistent on a daily basis though, it’s hard to stick around the pro game.
Should Ter Stegen Start For Germany?
I don’t think that I’m going to get a chance to do a full article on this, so even though it’s a little off topic I wanted to talk about it here briefly. Manuel Neuer is 34, and Ter Stegen is 28. Therefore, there’s a good chance that sooner rather than later Ter Stegen will become Germany’s number 1. There’s a good chance that Neuer calls it quits from the national team after the next World Cup. Why has Joachim Löw been hesitant to make the move? The answer is pretty simple in my mind and it comes down to style of play. Manuel Neuer is the quintessential sweeper, centre back/ goalkeeper that you want to have. He plays constantly way off the end line. He does so with a minimal number of mistakes. This allows his teams to press further up the field constantly.
Ter Stegen is a goalkeeper that is best suited to play between the sticks really close to the end line. What really makes Neuer special is the fact that he can play like a defender with minimal mistakes. Most guys that try to play this way make a ton of mistakes and ultimately find themselves on the bench. As I mentioned, these are the moments where managers will ultimately decide that they’d rather go with a goalkeeper like Neto or Peña. They’re safe and you know what you’re getting. In my eyes Joachim Löw values that part of Neuer’s game. I also think that timing is super important for those types of goalkeepers. With age, this is something that can become more difficult for Neuer to provide on a consistent basis.
Will Ter Stegen Be Moved From Barcelona?
In my Juventus article I posed the question over whether or not Juve could look into signing a goalkeeper like Ter Stegen. The turmoil in the front office at Barcelona has a lot of players uneasy. Particularly, since they are being forced to take pay cuts. There are rumors that they may not even be getting their payments at all in the upcoming months. Selling a goalkeeper like Ter Stegen to a club that is more stable financially could make a lot of sense for all parties involved. You could make the argument that there is no reason why Barcelona should move to keep Ter Stegen.
This is not a knock on the german at all. The thing is, the drop from him to Neto although significant could be something that the team on the field could cope with. While selling Ter Stegen could be a great way to get some cash up front that the team badly needs. While also getting rid of a lofty contract on the payroll. As I mentioned, that’s why it could be a win, win for all sides.