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Ter Stegen's perfectionism


Barcelona finished their Champions League game in Prague with a 1-2 victory and Ter Stegen spoke to the television cameras with typically German austerity. It would have been expected that he would be happy: his team had won, above all thanks to him, surely another cause of satisfaction. However, far from it, the German keeper, speaking in perfect Spanish, was notably angry. Things had to be talked about, he said, emphatically. He didn't say exactly which things, despite the insistent questions of the journalist - that would have been going too far - but he made it clear that he doesn't believe that playing in the manner they did, Barcelona will be able achieve what they want. It was a remarkable outburst.

Why did he do it? Without doubt he's a perfectionist, someone for whom it's not enough to play well personally and for the team to win. He wants everything to work better. But such things, which are excellent from a journalistic viewpoint, tend not be so well received in the dressing room. Football prefers to discuss such matters internally, and internally, yes, he asked to discuss things, but he also said it externally too, where all the fans could see him. That turned some good news for Barça - the valuable victory in Prague - into bad news: their saviour in the game suddenly announcing that he was going to demand explanations from his teammates and that he would demand they take responsibility. An unexpected inconvenience.

Beyond expressing my own gratitude to Ter Stegan, for providing such good material for my fellow journalists and providing content for this column, I don't think he did the right thing for his club. Football is tough, and the players often feel under pressure from external criticism to the point of paranoia, so for one of their own to start a row like this is the last thing they expect. He's an imposing keeper, even better now that he's improved his excellent ability to play the ball with his feet in order to avoid the risks he used to take, but I think here he's done more the job of an embedded reporter than that of a responsible squad member. So far, there's not been a meeting.