Happy (belated) birthday, Marc-André ter Stegen!
Barcelona’s great German goalkeeper turned 27-years-old on April 30—just three days after ter Stegen helped the club clinch its 26th Spanish league title. It was the 12th trophy MAtS won with the Catalan club, including his second league title as the team’s undisputed starting goalkeeper. Not a bad way for ter Stegen to celebrate his Cake Day!
MAtS has come a long way since he first made his professional debut as an 18-year-old. Various team and individual accolades decorate his impressive mantle. He’s been a part of four straight Copa Del Rey victories, and he backstopped Germany to championships in 2009 (UEFA European U-17 Championship) and 2017 (Confederations Cup). He was recognized as kicker’s Bundesliga goalkeeper of the season for 2011-2012 (his first full professional season), and he earned TOTY honours in 2015 (UEFA Champions League Team of the Season) and 2018 (UEFA Team of the Year). To top it all off, he’s evolved into one of the world’s elite goalkeepers, both on and off of the ball.
As a way to serenade the Barcelona goalkeeper, I decided to look back at five of ter Stegen’s best performances. These selections weren’t limited to just club or country; any professional competitive game MAtS participated in was eligible for a spot in this piece. Aside from their dates, these performances aren’t organized by any specific ranking either.
Some of these performances are obvious and some are not as well-appreciated, but I think all of these games molded ter Stegen into the type of ‘keeper he is today.
@ Bayern Munich, 2011-2012 Bundesliga
Borussia Mönchengladbach’s 2011-2012 Bundesliga opener was big for a number of reasons. For one, it was their first official game since their victory over VfL Bochum in the 2010-2011 relegation play-offs; the tie that prevented them from relegation. Secondly, it was against Bayern Munich, who had finished third the season prior despite being the league’s most successful team ever. Finally, it was the league debut of Manuel Neuer in a Bayern Munich shirt. Neuer, who was just 25-years-old at the time, had transferred from Schalke 04 and was starting the first of a five-year deal with the Bavarians. Despite initial hostility from Bayern fans, Neuer was welcomed as a goalkeeper with a lot of potential, and the tie against Mönchengladbach served as his first real test.
By the end of the game though, Bundesliga fans were talking about a different goalkeeper; Marc-André ter Stegen. MAtS, who had only made his professional debut the season before, stole the show for the visiting Foals. The teenager made a string of top-quality stops, inspiring his side to a shocking 1-0 victory. His performance must’ve gotten into the head of Neuer too; he erred on a delivery to Igor de Camargo, allowing the Brazilian-born Belgian to tuck home the game’s only goal. This win was the first in a season that saw Mönchengladbach shoot to fourth in the league, and set the stage for many more duels between ter Stegen and Neuer.
@ Bayern Munich, 2014-2015 UEFA Champions League
In his first season with Barcelona, Marc-André ter Stegen shared duties with Claudio Bravo, who also joined the club that same season. Due to Bravo’s excellence in La Liga, MAtS was tasked with playing in cup competitions. This included the UEFA Champions League; a tournament Barcelona hadn’t won since 2011. Up until then, the German had played a significant role in getting them deep in the competition, with a penalty save on Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero in the round of 16 being his highlight. It was the club’s semi-final tie against Bayern Munich where ter Stegen really shined, though.
After keeping a clean sheet in Barcelona’s 3-0 home victory in the first leg, ter Stegen helped the Catalans defend their lead in the second leg through an inspiring performance. The German, who was just 23 at the time, silenced a usually rowdy Allianz Arena with several world-class stops. He made a high diving save on an arching Thomas Müller header with the score at 1-1, denied Bastian Schweinsteiger with an acrobatic tip save to keep Barcelona’s 2-1 lead intact, and stopped Robert Lewandowski’s potential equalizer with a goal-line clearance after a strong initial save (side note: this stop would later be recognized as the UEFA Save of the Season). Barcelona would ultimately lose the second leg by a score of 3-2, but their 5-3 aggregate lead meant that the Catalans qualified to that year’s Champions League final.
@ Real Madrid, 2016-2017 La Liga
It was Matchday 33 of the 2016-2017 Spanish Liga. Barcelona were second in the league table, six points behind Real Madrid. Fortunately for the Catalans, Los Blancos were about to host them at the Santiago Bernabéu. The match was tipped as La Liga’s title decider. With five games to go after this tie, Barcelona were in desperate need of a victory. A loss or a draw would’ve been unacceptable, as it would’ve likely spelled the end of Barcelona’s league campaign. The pressure was all on Barcelona’s players, in particular Marc-André ter Stegen, who was playing in his first season as the club’s undisputed number one goalkeeper.
The pressure didn’t seem to faze MAtS, though. Throughout the entire 90 minutes, the German goalkeeper stood on his head with multiple top-class stops. In the first half, he denied Cristiano Ronaldo with a wonderful diving stop to keep the game scoreless. In the second half, ter Stegen channeled his handball skills into an unorthodox spread stop on Karim Benzema, denying him at point-blank. MAtS ultimately saved 12 shots that day—the most he’s stopped in a single match with Barcelona—and while most neutrals will remember the game for Lionel Messi’s added time winner, it was ter Stegen who set the stage for Barcelona’s dramatic display.
vs. Chile, 2017 Confederations Cup
To say that Marc-André ter Stegen’s opportunities at the international level have been limited is an understatement. Leading up to the 2017 Confederations Cup, MAtS had earned just eight caps with the German senior team, despite making his debut in 2012. This was mainly due to Germany’s strong goalkeeper depth. But after Manuel Neuer was ruled out injured and Bernd Leno almost cost the Germans their opening game, ter Stegen was given an opportunity to showcase his talents at the 2017 Confederations Cup. He started Germany’s remaining two group stage games and their semi-final match, limiting Chile, Cameroon, and Mexico to a goal each.
MAtS left his best for the final, though. In a rematch with Group B opponents Chile, ter Stegen delivered his greatest national team showing. The German goalkeeper turned aside all eight of Chile’s attempts on goal, including a couple of Arturo Vidal chances and an Alexis Sanchez free kick. His stupendous play backstopped Germany to a 1-0 win and gifted the country its first ever Confederations Cup championship. It also encouraged discussion over ter Stegen potentially starting in the upcoming World Cup; a decision which ultimately backfired when MAtS was benched for the tournament.
@ Athletic Bilbao, 2017-2018 La Liga
Athletic Bilbao gave Marc-André ter Stegen a rude welcoming in his early Barcelona career. In the 2015 Supercopa de España, ter Stegen was beaten five times across two legs, including four times in the first leg. He was lit up by Aritz Aduriz for a hat-trick, and Mikel San José’s opener was a 50-yard strike born out of an intercepted clearance from MAtS. The game was a scar on ter Stegen’s career; a blemish that critics loved to point to when talking about the German goalkeeper. For this reason, it’s no surprise that the cameras focused solely on ter Stegen heading into Barcelona’s October 28, 2018, visit to the Basque city.
What viewers caught wasn’t another belter from 50-yards out, though. Instead, they witnessed one of ter Stegen’s greatest ever performances. Barcelona were outclassed and outperformed by their Basque hosts, but they escaped with a 2-0 victory thanks to a clinical showing from ter Stegen. Aritz Aduriz was left particularly red-faced by the then-25-year-old; he saw a 1-v-1 attempt palmed away and a late header denied at the goal-line. MAtS made five saves that day, good enough to keep a clean sheet and hand Barcelona their 17th straight unbeaten match in La Liga.
Do you agree with the selections? What other Marc-André ter Stegen performances do you think deserved a shout? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter through @ThatArabKeeper!