The first new signing of the Luis Enrique era was confirmed yesterday when German goalkeeper Marc André Ter Stegen joined Barça on a five-year contract. Barça have paid €12 million to Borussia Mönchengladbach for the 22-year-old Ter Stegen who has played 126 games in the last three years for the German team and he has also represented his country at international level on four occasions.
Taking over from Victor Valdés is going to be an enormous challenge for the youngster. The job of defending Barça’s goal proved too much for several keepers who were given the task following Andoni Zubizarreta’s departure in 1994. Lopetegi, Baia, Dutruel and Bonano are just some of the goalies who struggled with the pressure of the position before Valdés arrived on the scene in 2002.
Ter Stegen now arrives on the recommendation of Zubizarreta and I should take this occasion to say I think a great deal of the criticism aimed at our sporting director is unfair. Zubi is blamed for failing to sign players, especially a central defender, but the reality seems to be that he is not actually in charge of signing players but rather of suggesting them. So when Barça were chasing Thiago Silva or Javi Martinez this was also on Zubi’s recommendation but the fact we didn’t sign either player was down to other directors deciding that the signings were not economically viable.
In Zubi’s first years as sporting director Pep Guardiola was still coach and it seems Guardiola’s influence on decisions left little room for Zubi to take charge and it is difficult to see what role he had in the signings of Adriano, Mascherano, Afellay, Fabregas and Alexis. Perhaps Zubi’s first big decision was to choose Tito Vilanova as Guardiola’s replacement but with Rosell still as president his authority continued to be restricted. He may have had some influence in the signings of Alex Song and Jordi Alba but Song was only signed after the club refused to pay the get-out clause on Zubi’s choice of Javi Martinez. Then last summer the only signing was Neymar who was clearly another Rosell signing, as Tata Martino apparently was as well. The principal problem is not Zubizarreta but rather the limited role he had under Rosell. Reports that he had to convince the other directors of Ter Stegen’s qualities with a 25-minute video at Monday’s board meeting while also needing to pitch his case for Luis Enrique suggest he still hasn’t got the power to do his job properly.
Zubizarreta’s position isn’t helped now by press who while knowing that Ter Stegen had been chosen have been touting the name of Thibaut Courtois. While there is little doubt about the quality of Courtois there is no guarantee that he would have adapted to Barça’s style of play and he would probably have cost three times what we have paid for Ter Stegen. Zubi will no doubt take the rap if the German flops but the young keeper appears to have a good head on his shoulders and at a time when we need money for other reinforcements the fee of €12 million looks an absolute bargain.