Let a random football enthusiast describe Marc-André ter Stegen as a footballer and they would probably go on about his ball playing abilities and his habit of always acting like a libero behind his defenders to ward off threatening passes. Don’t expect many more positive remarks than that. Plus, after a few more seconds of thinking it is likely that the football enthusiast will start to toss around cliché’s like he “struggles in aerial duels”, he’s “inconsistent” and is “prone to errors”. You know, usual stuff that’s said to describe goalkeepers who aren’t among the very best. I may have agreed (to an extent) at the start of last season, but not right now.
Ter Stegen’s start to this season has been nothing short of sensational and it can easily be argued he’s been the very best in world football this season. FC Barcelona has, 17 games into the season, conceded just five (!) goals. Numbers no team or no goalkeeper can match. Barça’s collective defensive work has of course been impressive, but I think that the five in Barcelona’s “conceded goals” column would’ve been a very different number if it wasn’t for the blonde German between the posts. The fantastic save on Paulo Dybala’s left-footed shot in added time on Wednesday was just another in the streak of super saves made by ter Stegen this season.
MATS isn’t usually in the discussion of the best goalkeepers in the world, but after the Juve game yesterday I sat down to myself thinking if there currently is any goalkeeper out there better than Marc-André ter Stegen. Note the keyword; “currently”. He’s not top three in the world based on quality over time (although he might reach that level), but he isn’t there, yet. Jan Oblak, David De Gea and Manuel Neuer are all better, but if ter Stegen is able to maintain his current form there’s nothing stopping the former Mönchengladbach man from becoming a part of the exclusive group. Because right now, the German doesn’t have a superior. No goalkeeper in the world has mixed the required consistency together with almost a dozen super saves, most of them being directly decisive to the outcome of the game. De Gea is obviously among the best. The Spaniard has been magnificent. But better than ter Stegen? No. Possibly at the same level but in that case you can still argue for Blaugrana’s No.1 as the best in the world. Oblak? Consistent and solid as usual but nothing extraordinary so far this season. And Neuer? Injured for basically the whole season. There are plenty of other great goalkeepers beyond these three as well like Ederson, Courtois, Buffon, Navas, Donnarumma, Alisson etc. But can you honestly call out any of these as better than ter Stegen right now? My answer is no.
Despite your thoughts on this matter it is obvious that it’ll divide opinions . When I tweeted out this statement on Wednesday evening the reactions were mixed. “Yes, isn’t that obvious?” and “are you stupid?” were both common reactions in my mentions, as you might expect. But, that type of mixed reaction is why we all watch and post our opinions on football isn’t it?