Ter Stegen got one over Bravo – to again prove Barcelona kept the right goalkeeper (2024)

Marc-Andre ter Stegen won the goalkeeping battle against Claudio Bravo… again.

Two saves from the 30-year-old to deny Real Betis’ William Carvalho and Juanmi in the penalty shootout booked Barcelona’s ticket to the Spanish Super Cup final.

Between the sticks for the Andalusian side, there was an old friend in Bravo. The veteran goalkeeper, 39, could not stop any of the four penalties Barcelona took and the former Manchester City No 1’s performance was far from impressive.


The duel between the ’keepers evoked what happened behind the scenes in the Barcelona dressing room in the summer of 2016, when they were team-mates.

Bravo was the starting goalkeeper for Luis Enrique, with Ter Stegen his No 2. The German was not happy with the situation and found the perfect solution when Manchester City came calling for the Chilean.

Pep Guardiola was looking for a new goalkeeper to start his project in Manchester. After telling Joe Hart he was not in his plans at City, the club went to Barcelona to look for a goalkeeper.

Ter Stegen and Bravo ticked all the boxes. Ter Stegen was a more appealing option — at 24 and with the best years of his career in front of him.

If Barcelona had not made a bold move for him, Ter Stegen would have joined Manchester City. That was the challenge he set for the club and, after an internal debate, Barcelona decided to give him the reins and sell Bravo.

The Super Cup semi-final again showed why they made the right choice. Ter Stegen was the difference in Riyadh, with outstanding ball distribution (92 per cent of passes completed) and several key saves.

He registered five saves — three of them at an elite level. The first one was to keep out German Pezzella’s header from a corner then, just before half-time, Luiz Henrique was denied and finally, in the 83rd minute, it was Juanmi who could not beat him.

“If it wasn’t for Ter Stegen, I believe we would have won,” Real Betis goalscorer Loren Moron said. “He made three saves that were out of this world.”

“I’d like to be less busy,” Ter Stegen said. “What you see and analyse from previous penalty shootouts is not always what you end up having. At the end, you need this bit of luck, and we had it this time.”

Ter Stegen got one over Bravo – to again prove Barcelona kept the right goalkeeper (1)

Ter Stegen denied Carvalho and Juanmi in the shootout (Photo: Yasser Bakhsh/Getty Images)

Ter Stegen’s impact on Barcelona goes well beyond this Super Cup. He has been, by far, the player in Xavi’s squad who has most improved compared to last season.

Last season, the 30-year-old registered 11 clean sheets in 35 league games. This campaign, he has one more (12) in 16 matches.

Ter Stegen conceded 34 goals in 35 La Liga games in 2020-2021. This season, with six goals conceded, the German’s average is 0.38 goals conceded per league game and Barcelona have the best defence in the league, with Villarreal in second, having conceded double that amount (12).


Despite his masterclass in Riyadh, though, the Spanish FA did not think Ter Stegen did enough to deserve the recognition of being the semi-final MVP — officially, they awarded it to Barcelona’s wonderkid, Pedri.

The 20-year-old took the award with awkwardness, fully aware the trophy should not be in his hands.

“Ter Stegen deserved the MVP more than me,” Pedri said. “It’s thanks to his saves that we are in the final against Real Madrid. He and Courtois are going through an incredible moment of form.”

After Real Madrid’s Thibaut Courtois being awarded — and rightly so — the MVP in the other semi-final, this might be the Super Cup of the goalkeepers.

You need the likes of Karim Benzema, Robert Lewandowski, Vinicius or Ansu Fati to score goals to win a game.

But you must have a goalkeeper at the peak of his powers to eventually win a title. Both Spanish giants, in that regard, will be covered before Sunday’s El Clasico which will define their first trophy of the season.

(Top photo: Mohammed Saad/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Ter Stegen got one over Bravo – to again prove Barcelona kept the right goalkeeper (2)Ter Stegen got one over Bravo – to again prove Barcelona kept the right goalkeeper (3)

Pol joined The Athletic in 2021, initially moving to Manchester to assist us with our Manchester City, Manchester United and Spanish reporting. Since 2015 he has been an English football correspondent for multiple Spanish media, such as Diario Sport and RAC1 radio station. He has also worked for The Times. In 2019, he co-wrote the book Pep’s City: The Making of a Superteam. He will now move back to Spain, covering FC Barcelona for The Athletic. Follow Pol on Twitter @polballus

Ter Stegen got one over Bravo – to again prove Barcelona kept the right goalkeeper (2024)
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