It’s only natural that Lionel Messi dominated the headlines after Sunday night’s spectacular Clasico.
In addition to Messi’s match-winning heroics, however, there was also an outstanding contribution for Barcelona at the other end of the field, where Marc-Andre ter Stegen confirmed his status as one of the world’s premier shot-stopping goalkeepers with a series of outstanding saves.
Real Madrid fired in 14 shots on target, and ter Stegen was equal to nearly everything they could throw at him.
There was nothing the German could do about Madrid’s goals – netted by Casemiro sniffing around a rebound and James Rodriguez from close-range – and some of his saves were superb.
Particularly impressive were his reflexes to keep out a header from Karim Benzema with his foot and his quick reactions to repel a low strike from Marco Asensio. He also made a decent stop from James to maintain parity at two apiece just before Messi’s winner.
Life hasn’t always been easy for ter Stegen since arriving at Camp Nou from Borussia Monchengladbach as a highly rated 22-year-old in the summer of 2014.
Initially, he had to share playing time with Claudio Bravo, only appearing in cup games while the Chilean was preferred in La Liga.
His first year ended with winners’ medals in both the Champions League and the Copa del Rey, but last season was more frustrating and it was clear ter Stegen was unhappy continuing as part of a rotation policy for much longer.
Largely for that reason, Barca accepted Manchester City’s offer for Bravo, allowing ter Stegen to become their indisputable first-choice keeper.
His determination to play out with his feet has occasionally got the better of him, most notably at Celta Vigo when he gave away a goal in a 4-3 loss with a horrendous error which led to much criticism.
But he has now found a better balance between playing out and clearing his lines, looking ready to grow into his role as a goalkeeper who can match his playmaking ability with the added responsibility of being the last line of defence.
And as his memorable performance at the Bernabeu on Sunday showed, ter Stegen now looks ready to remain Barca’s number one for many years to come.
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