the keys to understanding the great comeback of the Barça goalkeeper

the keys to understanding the great comeback of the Barça goalkeeper

BarcelonaIt’s not even a year since Marc-André ter Stegen sat in front of the press before Barça faced Napoli. It was the preview of the second leg of the round of 16 of the Europa League. The German, with that confident pose that he has always shown, broke his silence to get out of the way of the criticism he had received after a few complicated months. That February 23, 2022 Ter Stegen said enough. “There have been things that I haven’t been able to work on because I’ve been injured. Now I’m doing it to get back to the top level and I’m convinced that the results will come. I know that some of you have written something to add fuel to the fire. That’s how you are [els periodistes]. But I know what I do well and what I need to improve, so I’m calm.”

It referred, among other things, to an analysis of the ARA on its performance and the type of goals it received. He was especially bothered by the contribution made by the exporter Andrés Palop in the text from the beginning of February, which linked the amount of goals he received on the right side with the state of his knee: “He has scored many goals with his right leg , most of them anchoring their feet on the ground and not pushing themselves for the jump.” The number was striking: without counting penalties and rebounds, he had conceded 11 more goals from the right side than from the left (out of a total of 35). This statistic and the criticism hurt him, because he also felt that parameters such as the fact that most forwards are right-handed and that many of the shots they make are crosses were not taken into account. He was experiencing his worst months. “He was playing with a lot of pain and this affected his performance because he was conditioned”, they remind ARA from Sant Joan Despí.

The source of the decline in performance was a poorly healed patellar tendon injury in his right knee. In the summer of 2020, the goalkeeper went through the operating room for the first time. Ramon Cugat intervened, but he did not recover well. Ter Stegen was not only playing in pain, he was also unable to train in condition. The German retained a privileged reading of the game, but the pain affected him under the posts. The physical demands in training had to be lowered because priority was given to him being able to play. In this way, great care was taken in the work of the strength in the quadriceps, which helps the goalkeepers to propel themselves. He could neither train nor play well.

Eleven months after the first operation he repeated the surgical procedure with the Swedish expert Håkan Alfredson. In the summer of 2022, he gave up going with the national team in order to recover well. “After three non-stop seasons I need to rest,” he argued. Barça appreciated the gesture: “He is an excellent professional. His commitment cannot be doubted”, says the coaching staff.

The stop in Mallorca that changed everything

After the second knee operation, he still suffered discomfort for several months that affected his jump and shot. The situation changed between December and January last year, with Xavi already on the bench and Ricard Pruna overseeing the players’ medical history. In one of the first meetings of the new staff goalkeeping coach José Ramón de la Fuente suggested it was more a matter of rehab than strictly clinical. Thus, they defined a series of strength exercises, with pulleys and weights, so that the German would gain confidence in the joint and stop suffering. The change in physical work and a decisive save in the triumph against Mallorca (0-1) in January 2022 were the turning point: “He felt good physically and felt important again, which saved the team”.

Ter Stegen is practically pain-free and the internal parameters that the technicians handle consider that there is still a little more room to continue enhancing the work of the force. This makes a difference in saves: rubbing a ball with your fingers is not the same as reaching it with the palm of your hand. A few centimeters are decisive and this season proves it: the German has only conceded more than one goal in one of the 19 games of the first round, at the Bernabéu (3-1). In 14 he has kept a clean sheet and in four he has only conceded a single target. A record that only Oblak, of Atlético de Madrid, had in the 2017-18 season. The goalkeeper also benefits from the team’s defensive improvement: Barça had never closed the first round having conceded only seven goals. There is only one better precedent: in the 1993-94 season, Dépor received six.

Happy in Catalonia

Ter Stegen is having his best season and being a goalkeeper at Barça is not an easy task: not only must he be decisive on the few occasions when he is expected to have the opponent, but the coaches also demand a minimum of 90% success in passing. In Sant Joan Despí they still remember with smiles when Claudio Bravo left Barça and said that at last he should not be waiting for the whole game of the game with his feet. But the problem is that he went to Guardiola’s City. Since the departure of the Chilean, the German is the owner and lord of the goal. A few months ago he received with special excitement to become the fourth captain after the retirement of Piqué.

The Mönchengladbach goalkeeper is happy at Barça, in Barcelona and in Catalonia. Gaudeix del clima i la gastronomia i ha fet esforços per integrar-se: no només parla castellà amb fluïdesa, sinó que també entén el català, s’hi atreveix amb algunes frases i, fins i tot, llegeix algun llibre en català. It also retains one of the distinctive features of its origin: it is strictly punctual. If Ter Stegen is happy, Barça is smiling.


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