The Champions League quarter final clash between Barcelona and Bayern Munich will have Germany’s number one and number two goalkeepers going head-to-head against each other in one of a number of fascinating matchups. The question arises again however- is Manuel Neuer or Marc-André ter Stegen the number one?
It is a question that has been asked before and depending on which side of the fence you stand; you will have a differing opinion. They say form is temporary, but class is permanent, but looking at the form of both keepers over the past covid-interupted season will at least give a little evidence to the argument.
In fact, this very same question of goalkeeping hierarchy raised its head back in September when ter Stegen publicly complained about being German coach Joachim Löw’s second choice, with Neuer not exactly calming the situation with his response.
Over the past season Manuel Neuer has played 48 matches across all competitions and conceded 47 goals giving him an average of 0.98 per 90 minutes. Ter Stegen was between the Barcelona posts in 45 matches conceding 42 giving him an average of 0.93. Neuer’s save percentage was 73% whereas with ter Stegen it was 74.6%. Neuer kept a clean sheet in 41,7% of his games, ter Stegen hit 37.8%.
Both keepers are more than just shot stoppers though and their passing and build-up play from the back is a feature of their game. Manuel Neuer had a pass completion rate of 88.3%, ter Stegen 87.6%. The Bayern keeper’s progressive passing distance reached 24428 yards, whereas his Barcelona counterpart reached 22539 yards.
In the role of the ‘sweeper keeper’ Neuer made 61 defensive actions outside his penalty area with ter Stegen called upon just 31 times to leave his box to defend. Neuer averaged 39.1 touches per games, with ter Stegen it was 38.8.
Whereas Manuel Neuer helped Bayern to the league and cup double this past season, ter Stegen’s Barcelona finished five points behind Real Madrid in La Liga and were eliminated at the quarter final stage of the Copa del Rey.
Both German goalkeepers are undoubtedly up there amongst the best in the world with Real’s Thibault Courtois and Liverpool’s Alisson Becker also having a claim to be the best. The Neuer/ ter Stegen debate is very much like the age-old Messi/ Ronaldo debate that has been raging for so long. It is very easy to make a case for either, but very difficult to settle the argument one way or the other.
The one-off quarter final clash in Lisbon between the Bavarians and the Catalans will of course have a winner with either Neuer or ter Stegen emerging victorious, but don’t expect the debate over the best keeper to go away. When the international season gets up and running in September, Bundestrainer Joachim Löw will once again have the impossible decision to make- who is the best keeper, Neuer or ter Stegen?