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Three options to replace Marc-Andre ter Stegen at Barcelona

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Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images

Recently marking his 410th appearance for FC Barcelona against Real Sociedad with a clean sheet, Marc-Andre ter Stegen has established himself as one of the great goalkeepers of this club.

Winning five La Liga titles, five Copa Del Rey cups and even a Champions League trophy in his very first season as a goalkeeper for Barcelona, Ter Stegen is also one of the most decorated players in the team.

Even with all this silverware, there is a feeling among the fans and even the media alike that the German’s consistently erratic performances in Europe might mean the time for his departure is inching closer to raise some much-needed funds.

It may even be this very summer transfer window. With the Catalan club’s finances proving to be a rigid obstacle in their ambition to build a solid winning squad, Ter Stegen remains a very valued commodity in the market and would demand a high fee for his services.

Mixed reports are emerging out of Barcelona, where on one hand he is deemed transferable by the club should a tempting offer be made, and a key part of the foundation moving forward on the other.

Without engaging in the debate, we analyze the three possible options who could replace the German international should he leave at the end of the season using two important metrics – distribution and shot-stopping, whilst also keeping in mind the skewed finances of the club.

1. The safe option

Ter Stegen’s value to the team can’t be understated. A goalkeeper at Barcelona has to be very good with his feet whilst having the required level of shot-stopping ability and the German has been a pioneer of that skill.

Factoring in these requirements, Unai Simon is more than an able candidate to take over Ter Stegen’s role should he depart.

Simon has been the No. 1 for Athletic Club for quite some time now. He is also a penalty specialist with able shot-stopping as well. Not to forget, he also happens to be the first-choice goalkeeper for the Spanish national team due to his credible skills on the ball.

On a comparative basis, he isn’t too far away from replicating the German’s value to the Blaugrana. Unai Simon’s 73% save percentage is a carbon copy of that of Ter Stegen.

Unai Simon has done well at Athletic Club. (Photo by Fran Santiago/Getty Images)

While his shot-stopping is an able substitute for that of the Barcelona man, Simon is also unfortunately infamous for his erroneous distribution, as indicated by his 59.7% pass completion rate compared to Ter Stegen’s mammoth 89.3%. However, it must be noted the difference in the styles of teams both are employed in.

So, while he is not the most perfect option available, Barcelona don’t have the finances either to chase perfection. Not to mention his €25 million market value which shouldn’t be too much of a strain on the club’s finances should Deco chase his signature.

Currently aged 26, his best years are still ahead of him and certainly has room for improvement. For all those reasons, Unai Simon, more or less ticks all the boxes of a Barcelona keeper and would be an able candidate.

2. The desperate one

Should an irrefutable offer arrive for Ter Stegen and Barcelona have their hands tied, unable to bring in a quality replacement, it would be prudent to have a look at within the club. That’s where Inaki Pena comes in.

Fortunately enough, we have seen Pena up close and in action when the ex-Borussia Monchengladbach man was sidelined with a back injury requiring surgery between late November and early February.

Unfortunately for him however, that’s when Barcelona encountered a wobbling run of form in the season, losing ground in La Liga and crashing out of the Copa Del Rey with the backup’s shortcomings on full display. It’s fair to say, it wasn’t a very pretty audition.

Pena is more than an able shot-stopper. However, it’s his handling and communication that has proved to be dodgy, costing Barcelona some comical goals. His distribution, on the other hand, is to keep an eye on and is as close as you can get to his no.1.

Going by stats, Pena’s paltry 56.4% save percentage cannot stand further enough from Ter Stegen’s 89.3%. As mentioned before, it is with his feet he makes up ground on the German, recording an impressive 87% pass completion rate. Having been raised in La Masia, it’s certainly a useful trait.

As Ter Stegen’s future remains up in the air, it wouldn’t hurt to think of Inaki Pena as his successor. After all, the Spanish goalkeeper is only 25, nowhere near his prime and would be a young zero-cost replacement.

However, while he still has a lot to learn and would undoubtedly come up trumps in the future, Pena is a long-term project and his continuity isn’t as reassuring in the near future.

It might just be a mighty gamble and potentially backfire should Barcelona place all of their eggs in this basket. The talent is there, but the quality needs time.

3. The smart option

All things considered, Barcelona should still try and procure the services of a top-level keeper. Albeit on crunching finances, replacing Ter Stegen is no mean feat. A goalkeeper of respectable quality demands to be high on the priority list should the rumour come to pass.

Alex Remiro has been a key figure at Real Sociedad (Photo by PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA/AFP via Getty Images)

Taking into consideration the constraints of the task, Alex Remiro must be held in high regard as a quality replacement.

Currently playing his trade at Real Sociedad in one of the most exciting teams in the league under Imanol Alguacil, Remiro has impressed this season on both the domestic and European stages with his incredible ability to guard his net and to add the cherry on top, his distribution is worthy of that of a Barcelona level goalie.

To add some shine to his name, the Basque club, playing their first-ever season in the Champions League, conceded the least number of goals (6) in the competition thanks to their last man of defence.

If any residual doubts remain, his eligibility and abilities are backed up by stats. To begin with, Remiro’s shot-stopping registers a higher save percentage than Ter Stegen at 74%. Even his distribution is well above reasonable and acceptable with a solid 77% pass completion rate.

At 29, he is approaching his prime and with his market value as low as €24 million, it is too good of an opportunity to pass on should our captain leave the club this summer.

Article by Aryaman Sharma

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