Bayern Munich should have tightened their grip on the Bundesliga title in their last league game of this calendar year. Leading into the game, the primary talking point was whether Jupp Heynckes would finally opt to start Mario Gomez over Mario Mandzukic. He didn’t. But as the volley of Bayern shots poured in on Borussia Monchengladbach’s goal with the score tied at 1-1, the only player worth mentioning and deserving of infinite praise was Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
How many 20-year-olds can go into an arena housing the biggest team in Germany and more than steal the spotlight for almost the entire match? Franck Ribery was excellent as usual, but ter Stegen put on a clinic. If that wasn’t enough to send Premier League clubs scrambling then what will?
Is his age a deterrent? Certainly not. In fact, it almost knocks you back when you think that ter Stegen is still only 20. He hasn’t been around ‘forever’ in the same sense as players like Iker Muniain in Spain, but he seems to have such a calm understanding of what’s needed of him at the highest level. He’s a rookie goalkeeper but in no way does he play like one.
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And that’s another fantastic feature of the Bundesliga: an abundance of young, extremely talented goalkeepers. Ter Stegen will challenge Manuel Neuer for the No1 shirt in Joachim Low’s team, but so will Bernd Leno, Kevin Trapp and even Oliver Baumann and Ron-Robert Zieler. Such is the talent pool in Germany that it is becoming extremely common to heap praise on any number of the Bundesliga’s young goalkeepers. But once again, the bar was raised by ter Stegen against Bayern.
This season has been a slight disappointment for ter Stegen following his exceptional performances of last season, but that is understandable considering he’s still learning his trade. The question is whether he’s good enough for the Premier League. During the game against Bayern, ter Stegen made 9 saves and saw off 14 corners. One of the big concerns for any goalkeeper in England is how they deal with crosses into the box. For ter Stegen, so much of it was handled with the confidence of a veteran.
But this should maybe be seen as a good thing for the player, a good environment and an excellent coach for which he can continue to grow. Lucien Favre remains impressed with his goalkeeper but is well aware of his talents. The player has gone from a relegation battle to a challenge on the Champions League places, all in the space of less than two seasons. He’s certainly forgiven for a slump in form earlier in this campaign.
However, would the player be afforded such time in England? Even if he did arrive in the Premier League in the near future it would be amid the promise of a fantastic goalkeeper, not just a fantastic prospect. Would he be given the time to grow? The home comforts would be gone and the need to understand a new way of life might weigh too heavy.
Even if that performance doesn’t bring him to England in the near future, it will still act as a reference for the player and a potential marker and turning point for his team. You only need to do a little digging to understand that ter Stegen’s game against Bayern will be remembered for a long time. When his name is spread across the back pages with links to any number of Premier League clubs, it will be the fine save he made from Bastian Schweinsteiger’s venomous drive that will be one of the most memorable in the highlights package.