60 years of Bundesliga

Marc-Andre ter Stegen: Barcelona's Borussia Mönchengladbach-trained goalkeeper with some of the best feet in the business


A certain Lionel Messi and countless superstar attackers may have grabbed the majority of headlines at Spanish giants Barcelona over the years, but the club's Borussia Mönchengladbach-schooled goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen has rightly earned his fair share of plaudits at Camp Nou.

While ter Stegen's kicking and handling abilities now elicit 'wow' reactions on social media videos worldwide, it was – in his own words – Gladbach that "shaped his career".

If those preternatural kicking and handling skills are two defining traits, honed in the environs of the Borussia-Park, then the third is a calmness under pressure, an impressive mental fortitude, that also stems from his time in North Rhine-Westphalia.

Watch: Ter Stegen - a global goalkeeping icon made in the Bundesliga

It seems only right to start with ter Stegen's footwork, given that it is so often eulogised ahead of his glovework.

Having started out as a striker, he was shifted back in between the sticks at the age of 10 for two reasons: the first, that the goalkeeper in Gladbach's youth teams suffered from regular, debilitating nosebleeds and had become unreliable as a result; the second, that ter Stegen's coach had questioned whether his gait lent itself to his hopes of becoming a world-class striker.

However, reluctant the switch may have been from the pre-teen, it proved inspired: years of training both feet against the wall in his parents' garage paid off, marking ter Stegen out as a future great.

Those same skills are in evidence today every time – and it happens often – that he effortlessly dinks a pass to one of his full-backs. Indeed, plenty of goalkeeping observers rate ter Stegen's work with his feet as better than Germany No.1 Manuel Neuer's.

As good with his feet as he is with his hands, ter Stegen's composure on the ball is one of his standout attributes. - imago images / Team 2

Ter Stegen - a family name of Dutch origin, which is not unusual for the people of Mönchengladbach near the border - progressed seamlessly through the Foals' youth system, winning award after award, serving notice of his talent time and again.

So much so that when Gladbach were struggling in the 2010/11 season – sitting bottom of the league – and suffering through a string of erratic performances from first-choice goalkeeper Logan Bailly, the demands increased on coach Lucien Favre to throw ter Stegen in at the deep end.

The young stopper - just 18 at the time - was handed his Bundesliga debut on Matchday 29 against Cologne and helped the side to a 5-1 derby victory. Unfazed by the occasion, he impressed with his composure and did not miss a minute of action for the remainder of the season, conceding just twice in the last five games, which produced three wins and a draw.

He has not looked back since. Over the course of the following two seasons he played 6,107 of a possible 6,120 minutes of Bundesliga action, helping the Foals finish fourth and eighth respectively.

A talent as prodigious as his was obviously never going to have to wait long for an international call-up and Joachim Löw duly gave him his first senior cap in a 5-3 friendly defeat by Switzerland in May 2012.

If ter Stegen was disappointed to be left out of Germany's 2014 FIFA World Cup squad, that summer was nevertheless a memorable one for him as he sealed a move to Barcelona, who identified him as the ideal replacement for Victor Valdes in their possession-based game.

Watch: ter Stegen's tearful farewell from Gladbach

Ter Stegen has since gone from strength to strength at the Catalan club, making the No.1 jersey his own and forming a key part of a team that has won five La Liga titles, five Copa del Reys and the UEFA Champions League since his arrival. The German has even been named one of the club's captains and signed a contract extension in summer 2023 that will take him beyond his 36th birthday to 2028.

Although many will remember him as the goalkeeper that conceded eight in Barcelona's 8-2 humbling at the hands of Bayern Munich in 2020, his overall record at the Camp Nou is exceptional.

Indeed, he has kept clean sheets in over 40 percent of his over 400 games for Barca, and his form has been such that many Catalan commentators have rushed to hail him as the best goalkeeper on the planet.

Back in his homeland, a country that has been blessed with some of the greatest keepers in history, the debate is less clear-cut but by no means less fervent.

Without Neuer, arguably one of the best ever between the posts, ter Stegen would have earned far more than the 40 caps he has since collected his debut in 2012.

Yet the boy from Mönchengladbach has always proven the most reliable understudy in the world for Germany, with a calm head, a safe pair of hands and some of the best feet in the business.

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