The reaction to David De Gea’s hapless mistake for Spain against Portugal was universal. Shock. Even though he has made a few errors for his national team, it’s still astonishing to see him allow a straight-forward shot squirm past him into the net. That sense of incredulity is merely confirmation of how phenomenally consistent he is, particularly for Man United, and underlines his worth as one of the best goalkeepers in the world. It was, then, very welcome news to United fans recently when it was reported that De Gea is close to signing a new 5 year contract with the Red Devils.
If true, it would be a huge boost to the club. As would the stories regarding Real Madrid’s pursuit of Roma’s Alisson, because for a long time the Spanish club have been desperate to sign De Gea. Their admiration of him is long-established and they were agonisingly close to signing him before, foiled only by pesky paperwork, a ticking clock, and a heroic fax machine. The embarrassment of that saga has done nothing to dissuade them, however, instead it seems only to have hardened their resolve. Their current goalkeeper, Kaylor Navas, has performed well for them over the last few seasons, but he has never fully convinced that he’s their long-term option, never quite done enough to prevent Perez casting his gaze towards Manchester every year. The persistent rumours are for a reason: they remain keen for an upgrade.
Moreover, every top team would naturally be interested in De Gea. With the possible exception of Bayern Munich and Juventus, De Gea would improve any side in the world. Should he leave United, the clamour for his signature would not be restricted to Madrid – every top club in the world would join the race – but the link with Dea Ge and Real has been established for so long – a connection that De Gea has never convincingly dismissed – that if the Spaniard does leave United, predicting his destination would not be the hardest task in the world.
Following rumours recently that De Gea might finally become the latest Galactico, De Gea said “I don’t know if I’ll be the goalkeeper at Real Madrid, what I do know is that I’m very happy in Manchester. What I want is to win titles, like every other player. There’s no lacking in winning titles there, we have to improve, we are a big club, we are not here to take second place. We have to improve and make this club great.”
It’s a long way from being a definite no, which is why the news of his contract extension would be such a fillip for United. His reference to winning titles is notable though. It’s easy to forget that so few of United players have won the Premiership: the club’s last win was in 2013, and, in the following years, the squad has been almost completely revamped, with only a handful of players remaining from Ferguson’s era. Of course, De Gea is one of them, but he’ll be wondering when he will add to that that solitary league medal. Mourinho’s arrival at the club inspired hope it would be soon, but Man City’s phenomenal resurgence under Guardiola swiftly diminished it. De Gea is happy at Old Trafford, that much is clear. But like many top players, his career trajectory will be influenced by success at the highest level. It seems that De Gea is staying, but next season United will either to have win the league, or at the very least mount a genuine and convincing challenge to do so to avoid the same rumour of his departure emerging this time next year, even with a long-term contract. The latest stories suggest the Spanish international is set to be offered a contract by United making him one of the highest paid players on the planet.
United’s insistence they will not sell him is a sound one. Logically, selling De Gea only makes sense if the player is adamant that he wants to leave. That day may come but while he is content at United, the club must do everything they can to keep him. United certainly need to recruit improved quality into the squad, but retaining the world-class talent the club already has is equally vital. De Gea is at the top of that list. He is, in every possible sense, a keeper.