Champions League: Marc-André ter Stegen ready to lead Barcelona | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 14.03.2018
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Champions League: Marc-André ter Stegen ready to lead Barcelona

Lionel Messi led the way for Barcelona against Chelsea, but it's the man between the posts who is making the difference. Ter Stegen hasn't conceded a goal for 312 minutes and is fast becoming Germany's new number one.

It's hard to believe that Marc-André ter Stegen is in his fourth season at Barcelona. Yet at the beginning of this month, the 26-year-old goalkeeper made his 128th appearance for the club — one more than he ever made at Borussia Mönchengladbach.

The struggles he had in his first two seasons at Barcelona, when he split goalkeeping duties with Claudio Bravo, seem a distant memory and the German international has proven himself to be much more than the number one in town.

Ter Stegen has 22 clean sheets in 35 games in Spain's top division and the Champions League this season. Before the first leg against Chelsea, he had saved 23 of the last 24 shots on target. In short, he has been sensational.

Many Barcelona fans now consider him the most underrated keeper in Europe, but continued fine displays in the Champions League — a tournament he won in his first season with the club — is putting him firmly in the top bracket of keepers in the world.

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German goalkeeper Marc-André ter Stegen

Marc-André ter Stegen was impressive at the Confederations Cup

Making the big saves

While Manuel Neuer continues his recovery, the rest of the goalkeeping world continues to excel. The likes of Jan Oblak, David de Gea and Thibaut Courtois are the names so often associated with the "best between the posts," but ter Stegen's name is not heard as often. In a Barcelona team with enough attacking stars to make video-game players squeal, it is even less surprising ter Stegen's name is lower down the list.

The German is a keeper who makes the big saves. In the second leg of the semifinal against Bayern on his way to his first Champions League victory in 2015, ter Stegen made a remarkable reflex save on a header from fellow countryman Thomas Müller. He was a wall in the second El Clasico against Real Madrid last year. He was man of the match in last year's Confederations Cup final, finally banishing those once ugly memories with the German national team.

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But what is most notable is ter Stegen's footwork. England goalkeeper Joe Hart said in an interview with London-based newspaper The Times in February that ter Stegen was "phenomenal" and that he had never seen anyone "so calm with distribution."

With Neuer out, the concern over whether Germany lack a playmaker between the sticks is no longer a valid fear. Ter Stegen has it covered. In fact, Barca legend Xavi, who played with ter Stegen in 2014-15, told German newspaper Die Welt in January he considers his former teammate to already be at the same level as Manuel Neuer.

Ter Stegen has learned the language and recently moved into the city center, where locals can sometimes catch him darting around the city on his electric scooter. He has found and made a new home for himself, even become an idol — Hertha Berlin's US keeper Jonathan Klinsmann is a keen admirer.

What next? A second Champions League title? A World Cup win? Whatever it is, ter Stegen's name will be part of it.

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