His name echoed from the stands of Barcelona’s legendary Nou Camp. Marc-André ter Stegen looked more like a defender than a goalkeeper when he nipped an Atlético Madrid attack in the bud and used clever distribution to initiate a quick counter. “Ter Stegen is the new Manual Neuer,” read Thursday's El Mundo Deportivo headline.
After the first leg of the Copa del Rey quarterfinal, the media praise put the Germany U21s keeper’s performance level up there with Lionel Messi's, whose 85th-minute goal secured a 1-0 win. This kind of public attention is new to ter Stegen, who signed for the Catalans last summer.
“He looked like a sweeper or a defensive midfielder when he stopped the ball with his chest and was equally skilled in his distribution of the ball,” raved El Mundo Deportivo. Sport called the 22-year-old “Barca’s third man-to-man-marker. He showed great skills on the ball, a keen eye and excellent judgement.”
“I’m delighted with the crowd’s support. I won’t settle on this success though - I will continue to fight for my place,” said ter Stegen to TV3 in remarkably fluent Spanish. He commented on his excellent ball control: “I’ve played like that since I was a kid - I’m used to it. That’s probably why I’m no stranger to Barca’s style of play.”
Radio Marca credits ter Stegen with an air of exceptional self-confidence that carried over to the team and also compared him to World Champion and World Goalkeeper of the Year Manuel Neuer. The station also said that ter Stegen’s 12 million euro price tag is looking more and more justified.
Ter Stegen’s chances of beomcing the first-choice goalkeeper at the Catalan club certainly improved on Wednesday night. The keeper lapped up the accolades and rave reviews, but also made his main goal clear: “I also want to play league fixtures, although I know that Claudio Bravo is doing a great job.”
At the moment, ter Stegen and the 31-year-old Chile keeper are sharing the job as Barcelona goalkeeper. Real Madrid employed a similar concept last season, when Diego Lopez and Iker Casillas divided cup and league fixtures between them. The Spanish media are convinced that ter Stegen would be the undisputed number one had he not suffered from a back injury in pre-season.
Ter Stegen’s record is impressive: He has kept seven clean sheets in ten competitive fixtures for Barcelona, including in three of his six Champions League games. The Gladbach-born keeper will be aiming seize his chance and prove his qualities again when Barcelona travel to Madrid for the second leg next Wednesday. He will also face English champions Manchester City in the last 16 of the Champions League on 24th February, but he will have to continue waiting for his Primera Divison debut.