It seems like history repeating itself once more. Every year, Iñaki Peña is among the main candidates to become Marc-André Ter Stegen’s backup. However, not once has he been trusted by either the board or the coach. With Neto unlikely to depart and putting in stellar performances in preseason, it looks like the young keeper may have to review options away from Barcelona.
In my view, Iñaki is ready to be promoted. He was in fact mature enough to do so last season, but as the case has so often been, wasn’t handed the opportunity. Another season with Barça B helped him develop even further, as Peña displayed remarkable consistency all throughout the season. Calm and composed, but also very alert, the 22-year-old has always stood out for his lightning fast reactions. He is quite the asset with the ball at his feet, too — his decision-making and immaculate passing allow him to beat the press with relative ease.
Due to Ronald Koeman’s preference of a 3-keeper squad list, Peña was often present in first team games. However, he never became anything more than a backup, even when one of his competitors was sidelined. As a result, Iñaki is yet to make his senior debut despite clearly deserving it.
Koeman prefers to keep Neto
One of the key factors in Koeman’s decision not to promote Peña is, as feared, Ter Stegen’s injury. It looks highly unlikely that the German will return in time for the start of 21/22. This forces the coach to reconsider Neto’s future. During the last three games of preparation, it’s the Brazilian that was given the nod. This is a clear statement of intent from Koeman.
I personally find the lack of involvement of Iñaki Peña inexplicable. If you are meant to make him the backup choice, he is the one to step in when the main goalie is injured. Yet once that occurred, the board and manager have suddenly turned away from Peña’s candidature. A year on loan at a club willing to entrust him is better than another season of sheer insignificance in the first team.