We’ve been here before. It wouldn’t be a transfer window without the customary David Dde Gea to Real Madrid links.
Ever since the Spaniard established himself at Manchester United under Sir Alex Ferguson, Real have batted their eyelids in his direction.
Of course, de Gea came agonisingly close to making the switch to the Bernabeu in 2015, with the two clubs agreeing on a deal only for a fax machine faux pas to scupper things at the last minute (literally).
Since then, much to the relief of United fans, speculation surrounding de Gea has cooled. The goalkeeper’s head was turned in 2015 but, after Louis van Gaal took him out of the side for a while at the start of the 2015/16 season, his performances have been outstanding and he has been named the Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year in 2016 and 2018.
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De Gea, by all accounts, remains settled and content at Old Trafford but things change quickly in the transfer market and, following Zinedine Zidane’s resignation at Real Madrid, there is a chance the new management structure at the La Liga giants will revive interest United’s No.1.
If de Gea leaves, United will be forced to dip into the market for a replacement. Finding a player of his quality won’t be easy, but our friends at Football Whispers have taken a look at five candidates Jose Mourinho may want to consider.
The Atletico Madrid keeper is regarded as one of the finest shot stoppers in Europe. The Slovenian signed for Atleti in 2014 from Benfica as a replacement for Thibaut Courtois and has developed into a remarkably consistent presence in Diego Simeone’s side.
At 25, Oblak can offer longevity in the same way de Gea could when United signed him from Atletico in 2011. But he would come at a hefty price – he is currently valued at around £70-80million.
But Oblak’s stats suggest he would be worth the investment.
However, it’s his reflexes that have impressed the most. Oblak averaged 2.94 saves per 90 last season and saved three penalties.
What’s more eye-catching is Atleti’s xG conceded stats. They conceded 19 goals excluding own goals and penalties during the 2017/18 La Liga season, improving significantly on their expected goals conceded tally of 32.
On top of that, they conceded 68 per cent of their post-shot xG, highlighting how effective a shot stopper Oblak was.
Another potentially pricey option, Donnarumma has been heavily linked with a move away from AC Milan this summer. The Italian is still only 19 and has much to learn but he has shown extraordinary promise at such a young age, having established himself as the Rossoneri’s first-choice over the last three seasons.
Donnarumma is exceptionally experienced for his age, with 125 appearances for Milan and six Italy caps to his name already. He is understood to be a Paris Saint-Germain transfer target but United certainly possess the financial muscle to edge out the French champions.
Milan conceded 39 goals during the 2017/18 Serie A campaign but that was at least partially due to Leonardo Bonucci’s struggles following his move from Juventus. As for Donnarumma, he averaged 4.61 saves per 90, the second-highest in Serie A and played the second most accurate passes per 90, too, with 23.53.
With Pepe Reina close to completing his move to Milan, Donnarumma looks certain to leave – United may want to make their move.
Another Slovenian, Handanovic is the oldest player on this list but, if some of the more expensive targets prove unattainable, the 33-year-old could be an attractive option.
Handanovic signed for Inter a year after Mourinho left the San Siro, in 2012, and has been the Nerazzurri’s first-choice ever since, making 240 appearances and missing only 14 league games in his six seasons at the club.
The former Udinese stopper’s stats reflect his consistency, too, with Inter having conceded just 23 Serie A goals last season excluding penalties and own goals against an xG conceded of 38.11 and a post-shot xG conceded of 31.97.
Well into his 30s, Handanovic is not showing any signs of decline and would represent a more cut-price option for United. Having spent almost his entire career in Italy, Handanovic could welcome a new challenge.
Areola was PSG’s first-choice during Unai Emery’s last season but reports have suggested that his future is up in the air with the club said to be shopping for a new goalkeeper – Gianluigi Buffon is reportedly a PSG transfer target.
A new arrival would perhaps push Areola down the pecking order and he’d be excused for not accepting that, given that he kept 17 clean sheets in 34 Ligue 1 games last season.
At 25, Areola has his best years ahead and has certainly impressed with some of his agile displays between the sticks. Standing 6ft 5in, Areola is an imposing, athletic and confident keeper and, while he has made costly errors at times, there is more than enough talent for United to work with.
Still only 23, de Gea’s Spain understudy has caught the eye with his sure-handed displays for Athletic Bilbao over the last year. A former Under-19 European champion with Spain, Kepa emerged as a Real Madrid transfer target earlier this season before committing his future to the Basque club by signing a new contract until 2025 – with a £70million release clause.
Whether or not United want to part with sort of money remains unknown but Kepa is certainly a keeper whose star is rising. The Basque-born No.1 averaged 3.3 saves per 90 during the 2017/18 La Liga campaign, saved two out of the three penalties he faced and completed 19.63 accurate passes per 90.
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Having attracted Real Madrid, it’s clear Kepa is destined to spend his peak years at one of Europe’s top clubs and while there hasn’t been any reported interest from Old Trafford, that could change if de Gea leaves.
There are, of course, other goalkeepers out there. Roma’s Alisson, subject of relentless Liverpool transfer rumours, is highly thought of but he looks set for either Real Madrid or Anfield. Mattia Perin is another bright Italian talent but we’ve heard his move to Juventus is almost a done deal. On that basis, we’ve excluded both.
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by Tom Bodell