Ter Stegen: one Champions League and eight disappointments

Only three goalkeepers have defended Barcelona's goal in 400 games.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
11 March 2024 Monday 10:30
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Ter Stegen: one Champions League and eight disappointments

Only three goalkeepers have defended Barcelona's goal in 400 games. And all three are closely related. It was precisely Andoni Zubizarreta (410), in his role as sports director, who signed Marc-André ter Stegen (400) in 2014 to replace Víctor Valdés (535). “I hope there are many more. “I am proud to have worn the shirt so many times,” reflects the German, who has a contract until 2028, after reaching the milestone against Mallorca. Today against Naples he also turns 100 in his career in UEFA competitions, between his time at Borussia Mönchengladbach and the decade at Barça.

There is more, because these three are the only goalkeepers who have lifted the Champions League. Zubi, in 1992; Valdés, in 2006, 2009 and 2011; and the German, in 2015, in Berlin. But since then Barça has not come close to a European final. “I always stay with trying again and that one day it will come,” predicts Ter Stegen who, after eight disappointments, still hopes to be crowned in Europe again.

In his opinion, it has been details that have prevented the Blaugrana from being in a position to fight for another European Cup. None of the eight disappointments was as cruel as the comeback suffered in Liverpool in the 2019 semi-finals after a 3-0 defeat in the first leg. “In the end we are always very close and due to our own mistakes we have not reached so high again, to another final. That is why tomorrow is more important (for today) than thinking further ahead,” he said, focusing on the duel against Naples.

The German, after ten seasons at the club, is a heavyweight in the locker room. In fact, he is already the second captain, in addition to being very adapted to the city, where his two sons, Ben and Tom, were born. And, although he was injured when the announcement was made, he was deeply hurt by Xavi Hernández's goodbye, which will be effective on June 30. “Unfortunately for me, Xavi is leaving. He announced it and it made me feel bad because the players are responsible for what happens. He is a great coach who has brought us back to the top after he cost us a lot,” he praises him.

The goalkeeper and the coach were teammates in the 2014-15 season, the German's first at Barça. “It is difficult to accept his departure, as a player and friend.” But he reveals that the coach has been the first to insist that you have to fight until the end to finish the course well. “He told us that this does not stop, that we must always give our best and he is working very well so that we can compete every four days.”

Looking ahead to the return against the Neapolitans, Ter Stegen, who has not conceded a goal in the last three games (285 minutes), believes it is important to put the finishing touches on it. The unbeaten streak has coincided with his return after surgery for low back pain. “I want to help, to make it known that I am there,” he says on a personal level after missing 17 games. He came back on time. “In the end, what we always want is to keep a clean sheet. So the moment you make you make a difference. We are doing better now,” he highlights on a collective level.

Christensen's new position as defensive pivot and the emergence of Pau Cubarsí intervene in this balance. “He is in spectacular shape and we have to take advantage of it,” he explains about the 17-year-old centre-back. Ter Stegen does not see a problem in the kid's youth. “On the one hand, there is the footballer, who at his age is doing a spectacular job. As a person he is very accessible, he is always open to work and improve. He is at the beginning of his career, imagine how much he can improve,” he points out.

Ter Stegen, who turns 32 in April, has not lost his enthusiasm or joy at being able to compete for the Champions League, but he prefers not to talk about favoritism against the Italian champion. “Due to the circumstances we have lost important players, and I think he is quite even,” recalls the German, who does not want to make past mistakes and only focuses on football. “The more we look at football, the better. If we think about other things, we will be wrong.”

And he applies the story to himself. The goalkeeper is one of the three members of the dressing room who knows Hansi Flick first-hand, but he did not want to talk about his former coach before the “most important game of the year.”