Roberto Baggio

Roberto Baggio
Il Divin Codino

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Talent Scout: Marc-André ter Stegen

Country: Germany
Club: Borussia Mönchengladbach
Position: Goalkeeper
Age: 19 (30/04/91) 

The character and style of the figure between the Gladback posts certainly has gone from one extreme to another in the last 40 years.

Back in late 1960s and 1970s, when the club won no fewer than five Bundesliga titles, their last line of defence was the eccentric and colourful Wolfgang Kleff, a thrill seeker if ever there was one. Times change, however, and if Marc-André ter Stegen is already considered a candidate for the full national squad it is precisely because he is not a showman. Instead, he prioritises solidity, application and effectiveness.

The teenager goes about his job with the minimum of fuss, yet even this most calm and composed of individuals can be caught letting off emotional steam. Legenedary German custodian Oliver Kahn, the youngster likes to celebrate a vital save with a clinched-fist pose of delight and it was wholly fitting when Kahn recently described Ter Stegend as the second-best keeper in Bundesliga behind Manuel Neuer of Bayern.

On Borussia's books from the age of four, his rise has indeed been meteoric. For most of the last season he was content to understudy first-choice Logan Bailly, but with the team sinking fast into the relegation morass, coach Lucien Favre made a crucial decision in April to invert the pecking order and give Ter Stegen his chance.

Media consensus was that Favre had lost his mind, that pitching in a raw rookie at such a pressurised juncture was a gamble too far. Favre, though, hit back, saying: "I have every faith in the boy. He's a German youth international and won the European title with the under-17s a couple of years ago. He is a quality keeper. Who cannot see it is blind."

Extraordinary in his reflexes, handling of crosses and speed off his line, Ter Stegen looked a natural from the word go. And thanks in no small part to his nerveless displays Gladbach mounted the most improbable of escapes.

"The manner in which Marc-André came in at the eleventh hour to help steady the ship says everything about his amazing talent and maturity," says Gladback's director of sport, Max Eberl.

"No one can say it was a fluke. He's contained to shine for us this term. It's almost frightening that someone so young is this good."

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