The keys to understanding the resurrection of the best Ter Stegen

BarcelonaFebruary 23, 2022. Diego Armando Maradona football stadium. Marc-André ter Stegen is the Barça player in charge of attending to the press in the run-up to the second leg of the last 16 of the Europa League against Napoli. With a tense smile on his face, the German goalkeeper surprises journalists with a whip that does not match his dialectical style – he usually avoids controversies and takes a friendly tone.

“There have been things that I haven’t been able to work on because I’ve been injured. Now I’m doing it to get back to my best level and I’m convinced that the results will come. I know that some of you have written something to add fuel to the fire. That’s how you [els periodistes]. But I know what I do well and what I need to improve on, so I’m calm,” says the Mönchengladbach player. He refers, among other things, to an ARA analysis of his performance and the type of goals he concedes. He is particularly bothered by the contribution made by the exporter Andrés Palop in the text from the beginning of February, which links the amount of goals he receives on the right side with the state of his knee: “He has scored many goals with his right leg , most of them anchoring their foot to the ground and not pushing themselves for the jump”. The number is striking: without counting penalties and rebounds, he has received 11 more goals from the right side than from the left (out of a total of 35). A statistic that explains the instability of his game compared to what it was a few years ago.

This one is worth it flash-back initial to understand the current Ter Stegen, who after a summer marked by disconnection and personal training has found his best version. If a few months ago his individual performance did not match Barça’s collective recovery under the orders of Xavi Hernández, now it is impossible to analyze the team’s good start in the League without paying attention to his decisive actions. He has intervened in a providential way in three of the five games that the Catalan team has played so far in the state championship. On the first day he avoided what would have been a humiliating defeat against Rayo Vallecano at Camp Nou; in the second he minimized the dangers of Real Sociedad in Anoeta, and in the fourth he saved two goals scored by Sevilla in Sánchez-Pizjuán.

All this means that he is completing his best start to the season in terms of goals conceded since he is indisputable at Barça. Never in his first five league games had he conceded just one goal. The closest they came to equaling the current records was in the first five league games of 2017/2018, when they conceded just two goals. “Marc is a perfectionist and honest. He doesn’t stop working to improve and now he is at a very high level”, they celebrate from the Barça dressing room, where they know that the right key has finally been touched for Ter Stegen to stop suffering with the knee and, consequently, stop again like five years ago. How has he managed to get back to his best level? Which people have accompanied you in the process during the last months?

De la Fuente, Pruna and Pozos, the proper names of the recovery

The origin of Ter Stegen’s decline in performance is a poorly healed patellar tendon injury in his right knee. In the summer of 2020, after the defeat against Bayern Munich, the goalkeeper went through the operating room for the first time. Ramon Cugat intervened, but the injury did not fully recover. Eleven months later he repeated the surgical procedure with Swedish expert Håkan Alfredson, who again cleaned the affected tendon. However, the player continued to notice discomfort in the jump and in the shot, to the point that this conditioned his game.

The situation changed between December and January of last year, with Xavi Hernández at the head of the team and Ricard Pruna overseeing the medical history of the players. In one of the first meetings of the new staff, goalkeeping coach José Ramón de la Fuente, who was surviving on previous coaches, suggested that Ter Stegen’s problem was more one of re-adaptation than strictly clinical. Pruna and his team studied the case carefully and, after ruling out further treatment with enriched plasma, defined a series of strength exercises for the German to gain confidence in the joint and stop suffering. Some routines that he was already starting to follow at the time of his guts in Naples. The one responsible for making Ter Stegen work without getting bored in the gym today is David Pozos, a recuperator from Madrid who has recently joined the club.

The work of several professionals has helped the German to recover, but nothing would have been possible if the person involved had not understood in time that stopping balls was enough. Ter Stegen flies like before. And this Tuesday he wants to prove it in Munich, in his country, at Manuel Neuer’s stadium, which has denied him a place in the German national team for more than a year.


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