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Does Barcelona need an alternative to Marc-André ter Stegen?

Their flirtation with Gianluigi Donnarumma could be a sign

FC Barcelona v RC Celta - La Liga Santander Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

Marc-André ter Stegen has been FC Barcelona’s undisputed #1 for a few years now. In his first two seasons, Ter Stegen split starting time with Claudio Bravo. But the Chilean was sold to Manchester City, and since then, no one has truly challenged him.

Jasper Cillessen had to leave to Valencia to find a starting spot, and Neto was only given chances to start while the German was injured.

Last season, however was a down year for Ter Stegen, perhaps due to injury. He had trouble in his right knee that he dealt with all season. Ultimately he underwent knee surgery last month.

Barcelona seemed to recognize this at least to some degree and have been linked with Gianluigi Donnarumma, who is a free agent after refusing to extend his contract with AC Milan.

He’s currently being shopped to top clubs. The 22-year-old goalkeeper is one of the best in the world at his age and will be demanding a high salary. His agent, Mino Raiola, will also ask for a really high commission.

The Catalans may not actually make a move, after all, but their interest could reveal that they are in fact interested in finding an alternative to Ter Stegen. While the German will surely remain the first choice keeper to start the season, having a player that could pressure him might be a good idea.

Ter Stegen performed well when it comes to basic goalkeeping stats, but more advanced stats tell a different tale. For example, he was fifth in terms of goals conceded in La Liga every 90 minutes. He was also fourth in terms of save percentage. These are good numbers, all things considered.

However, if we look at advanced metrics, they tend to flatter Ter Stegen a bit less. Particularly, he was tied for 24th in La Liga in Post-Shot Expected Goals plus or minus, or PSxG +/-, according to StatsBomb. This is a metric that looks at shots the keeper has faced, and whether he is expected to save them or not. The best keepers concede less goals than is expected, while the worst concede more than expected. Own goals are excluded from this count.

Atlético Madrid’s Jan Oblak by this metric saved an additional 9.8 goals than what was expected, putting him first. However, Ter Stegen apparently saved 1 goal less than expected, which is pretty mediocre for a top keeper. This stat is not the be-all, end-all of goalkeeping performances, of course, but it does worry some analysts who look at these kinds of stats.

Of course one of Ter Stegen’s finest contributions is his ability with the ball at his feet. That is hard to replace. Donnarumma, for all his skill, lacks similar abilities in that department.

Barcelona could trust Neto a bit more if they sense Ter Stegen is out of form. The Brazilian did start for Valencia at one point, and did a reasonable job deputizing for Ter Stegen. In fact, with a PSxG +/- of 0.7, he ranked ahead of Ter Stegen and eighth among La Liga keepers.

The transfer market could also present an opportunity, but Barcelona do not have tons of money to spend.

A lot of former Barcelona keepers, however, are still performing well.

Claudio Bravo (Betis), Cillessen (Valencia), and Jordi Masip (Valladolid) are all former Barcelona players and have better ratings than Ter Stegen in this advanced metric.

Youngster Iñaki Peña could also be given a chance, particularly if Neto is moved on. Whether he’d realistically challenge Ter Stegen is unknown, but it seems less plausible.

There is another school of thought that thinks Barcelona have bigger problems and Ter Stegen will return to his best once his knee heals. In that case, a vote of confidence is all that would be needed.

Now I ask you: does Barcelona need to invest in another keeper? Or do they need to stick by their man?

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