FC Barcelona: The League of the reborn Ter Stegen | Sports

Ter Stegen won. Barça achieved the title, yes. But if this League has a winner, it is Marc-André. The goalkeeper rose as the symbol of a team that created a wall never seen before at the Camp Nou. Ter Stegen’s victory, in any case, transcends the three sticks. In January, when Barcelona was already consolidated as the firm candidate to win the League and Ter Stegen was already looking at himself in Ter Stegen’s mirror, the German looked for Araujo. “Defending is an art, you have to love defending. Saving a goal is as valuable as scoring it”, he insisted on the Uruguayan. There is no better recipient in the squad for the message that the 1 wanted to install. The German’s ancestry has been growing in recent years at Barça. Always important in goal, Ter Stegen had never hidden his character, not even before a totem like Leo Messi. And this winter he joined the group of captains since Gerard Piqué announced his withdrawal last November.

“He was excited to become one of the captains,” they say from the first team dressing room. This time, there was no vote. Ter Stegen fastened his bracelet because of his seniority in the group and nobody bothered him. “He feels like one of the leaders, he helps the young people a lot. He likes good vibes. He talks to everyone, especially the defenders, ”says a Barcelona employee. A premise that is corroborated by the coaching staff. “Above all, he is very aware of Eric García, Koundé and Christensen. He wants to encourage conversation, he seeks to involve everyone in how to defend ”, they say from Xavi’s staff. A close relationship that for the goalkeeper translates into how he wants to build the new dynamics in the Camp Nou dressing room.

“This is what we want as a group,” explained Ter Stegen in an interview in The Athletic. And he continued: “It doesn’t matter if you are a younger player or one with a little more experience, everyone has a voice to say something, everyone is really important. That feeling of being able to have an opinion and having that opinion respected builds trust in the team. It’s good to see that the young players are really comfortable and that they have their place in all of this.”

Nico Melamed tries to cross the barrier of the German goalkeeper Ter Stegen, this Sunday.
Nico Melamed tries to cross the barrier of the German goalkeeper Ter Stegen, this Sunday. Andreu Dalmau (EFE)

The dressing room that Ter Stegen arrived in the summer of 2014 has nothing to do with the one he leads with premises like this in 2023. At the time, Xavi was still in charge of a team where the trident reigned. “There were other hierarchies and different types of leadership. In that team was the best player in the world who was Leo Messi, the best in Uruguay [Luis Súarez]the best in Brazil [Neymar] and I don’t know how many world champions [Iniesta, Xavi, Piqué y Busquets]. Everything was different”, recalls a historic Barcelona employee.

Withdrawn Piqué and already public the goodbye of Busquets, Ter Stegen is, together with Jordi Alba [el lateral tiene la puerta de salida abierta], the only survivor of the last Champions League for Barcelona in 2015. And, most importantly for him, a new dynamic has been created in the dressing room. The “foreigner” group made up of Ter Stegen, De Jong and Christensen, to which Lewandowski joins when he is in a good mood -that is, when he scores-, and to which Sergi Roberto also joins, embraces the youngsters, led by Araujo and completed by Gavi, Pedri, Eric García, Ansu and Balde. The French Dembélé and Koundé, on the other hand, go for free. Same as Raphinha. All, in any case, are on the same frequency. From Ter Stegen’s environment they give more details: “After the vacuum that has been generated in the dressing room in recent years, some players, including Marc, had to step up. We have a feeling that, as a group, they are doing well. A feeling that is shared by Xavi”. “It’s a family,” they boast from the coaching staff.

The new order in the dressing room was not Ter Stegen’s only victory. The most important was missing. “He has recovered his level”, celebrates Xavi. After two operations (2020 and 2021) on his right knee that had undermined his confidence, the goalkeeper finally forgot about the infirmary. “The arrival of Xavi has meant a great change,” they remember from the German’s close circle. With the Catalan coach on the bench, Ter Stegen has achieved the best statistics of his career in the League. This campaign he accumulates 71 saves, far from the 122 that he registered in the 2016-2017 academic year. However, his save percentage is never seen before: 88%.

Javier Puado shoots on goal against goalkeeper Ter Stegen, this Sunday.
Javier Puado shoots on goal against goalkeeper Ter Stegen, this Sunday. Alejandro Garcia (EFE)

“I have enormous confidence in Marc. He is a decisive footballer and now he is extraordinary. He is a guarantee. Marc has been decisive in many moments of the season”, highlights Xavi. In the exchange of compliments, Ter Stegen points to Xavi as the culprit for his rebirth: “Since he arrived, many things have changed; the mentality, but also the way of defending”.

And the success that began in the locker room and was certified under the Barça crossbar, went straight to the pages of Guinness. Barcelona has 25 clean sheets in the League, a mark that equals the highest record of the five major European leagues in the 21st century (in the hands of Chelsea, 2004-2005) and that is only one away from the best historical record (the 26 of Deportivo in the 1993-1994 academic year). It is not the only record that the German is chasing. He has 13 goals in 34 games while the fewest goals conceded in a season, 18, are shared by Depor (1993-1994) and Atlético (2017-2018).

“Marc is a world top. We have tried to give him all the confidence. He is not only important in goal. He is transcendental in the locker room, in getting the ball out, in how he understands the game… he is spectacular, ”concludes Xavi. In the League of 1-0 and 0-1, Barcelona’s weapon was not in Lewandowski’s right boot, but in leadership and, above all, in the hands of Ter Stegen. The German is already caressing his first Zamora. It will be his last victory of the year. He already has the locker room and the League in his pocket.

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