In the 2010-11 season, Logan Bailly of Mönchengladbach was going through a tumultuous time, which included him punching a corner into his own net in a defeat against Kaiserslautern.
Gladbach looked destined to relegation, and it was in those times that the manager, Lucien Favre benched Bailly for a 19 year old Marc Andre ter Stegen, against Köln on the 10th of April. The young German did not disappoint, and the defence boasted a previously unseen solidity. He kept four clean-sheets out of a possible five in the last five matchdays as Mönchengladbach avoided relegation. During this run, ter Stegen shot to prominence with a one-man-standing display against Dortmund, making a plethora of world-class saves as Gladbach secured a famous 1–0 victory.
In the next season, he excelled even more and earned the No.1 shirt as a 20 year old. That season, he kept 15 clean sheets in a league that has 34 matches. Against Bayern in the Allianz Arena, ter Stegen produced an inspired display whilst his counterpart Manuel Neuer made the error that condemned Bayern to a 1–0 defeat.
Since then Gladbach, engined forward by ter Stegen and Marco Reus, embarked on a surprise title challenge, falling short in the end. Ter Stegen won Kicker’s ‘Bundesliga Goalkeeper of the season’, as a 20 year old in a league with so many promising and established goalkeepers.
The above graph averages and compares ter Stegen’s days at Gladbach versus Claudio Bravo’s days at Real Sociedad. Fast forward a few years, ter Stegen has become the youngest keeper after Iker Casillas to win a Champions league, and proudly wears the No.1 for Barcelona, albeit playing only in the cup tournaments so far. The current issue is that of the primary goalkeeper, and both goalkeepers are at lockhorns, informing the club their desire to be the first choice. Bravo has served the club well the past two seasons, winning two domestic leagues in the process. At 33, the question begs: Is it worth to sacrifice ter Stegen in favour of Bravo and risk the German leaving if the Chilean remains first choice in La Liga? Keeping in mind and respecting Bravo’s services to the club, if it came to the wire, it would be logical to continue with ter Stegen. The past two seasons have made it evident that ter Stegen is a better fit for Barcelona. He is more agile, a good shot stopperand far better than Bravo with his feet.
As observed in numerous matches, ter Stegen has ripped apart opposition pressure with his sublime passing and averages 0.2 key passes per game since his Barca debut.
The sweeper-keeper role that Victor Valdes made his own during his Barcelona years comes naturally to ter Stegen. The German acts as the 11th player, making it easy for the team’s formation to shuffle and absorb pressure from the back at crucial moments and then distributing the ball to any corner of the field with ease and poise. As the graphic below shows, ter Stegen is, by far, the goalkeeper with the best feet in all top leagues .
“Ter Stegen is sensational, a great future goalkeeper,” Neuer went on record to say. “He is agile and knows how to solve the most complicated situations with ease.” Ter Stegen was instrumental in the Catalans winning the 2014/15 Champions League, saving a late Sergio Aguero penalty against Manchester City and making key saves in the away leg of the semi-final against a rampaging Bayern Munich -- one of them, a double save where he cleared off Lewandowski’s shot off the goalline, won the best save of the tournament.
It would be foolish for Barcelona to even consider selling ter Stegen, given how perfectly he fits the Barça system and his potential for further improvement.
It's famously difficult for Barca to buy a goalkeeper or centre back. Same with goalkeepers. They have to control a whole half, not just be faultless between the posts. Marc Andre ter Stegen is the Xavi of goalkeepers, if there ever was one.
Bravo is an amazing goalkeeper, and has served the club with exquisite prowess, winning matches on his own and earning vital points that has helped the club win two back-to-back leagues, something that hasn’t happened since the Pep Guardiola days. For that, Cules should be eternally grateful.
However, the future is Marc’s, and Bravo must understand that. Ter Stegen’s distribution is exceptional and his commanding presence gives confidence to his defenders. He has lightning-quick reflexes and good positional sense. With enough trust and playing time, the German international can command the sticks for at least a decade at the Camp Nou.