As Jose Mourinho’s assessment of David De Gea’s contract situation in his pre-match press conference continues to create headlines, we take a look at weather it may be time for the Spanish keeper to move on.
“I am not confident, but I’m also not worried. I cannot find the word in English, but let’s see what happens.”, said United boss Jose Mourinho in his presser when questioned on United’s renewal plans for De Gea, ahead of their clash against Everton on Sunday.
‘Nervous’ might be the word Mourinho was looking for when he claimed he couldn’t find the appropriate one, and indeed he should be given De Gea’s stature and importance to the squad.
Brought in from Atletico at the young age of 21 for nearly 20 million pounds, De Gea was a skinny young boy when he arrived. Even before he arrived, however, there was never any question about his talent. It is testament to his potential that Sir Alex missed a United match only for the second time ever to watch him in action for Atletico – the first time being for his son’s wedding.
With Van Der Sar retiring, he had big boots to fill. His introduction to English football was as rough as one might expect, the youngster combining unreal saves with equally befuddling mistakes. He was even dropped for a short spell from the team as the gaffer turned to the-then second keeper Anders Lindegaard, following a string of high-profile errors by De Gea. Things changed for the better, however, as De Gea later rose to reclaim his place and by the time the legendary Scot retired, the young boy had grown into a man – one of the many parting gifts Sir Alex left for the team.
Moving on to the post-Fergie era, he has maintained his level season after season, bagging the (Sir) Matt Busby Player of the Year a record 4 times while making it to the PFA Team of the Year every season since 2014-15.
Surely now, he has nothing left to prove at Manchester.
Which finally leads us to the question, is it time for him to move on?
The world knows how close De Gea was to leaving Manchester for Madrid, but for a faulty fax machine. Even in the face of acrimonious circumstances, he maintained his professionalism and has gone on to become an even bigger cult hero for the Mancunians. There are however, still some who doubt his credentials as the world’s best. For an outfield player to be considered the best in his position, he must have the silverware to back his claims up. Surely, the same must also go for a goalkeeper? Fellow contender to the throne – Manuel Neuer, has almost every trophy in football – for both club and country alike – racked up in his cabinet. The same cannot be said about De Gea. While he certainly has the Premier League title to back his claim, he hasn’t won a trophy of note with club or country since Sir Alex’s retirement. While his contemporaries – Neuer and Ter Stegen have both won the coveted Champions League crown, De Gea has yet to make it past the quarter finals, and with United’s future prospects of even qualifying for the showpiece, let alone win it – looking slim at best, it might be in De Gea’s best interest to leave.
Further, while every one of De Gea’s fellow goalkeepers in the top-six teams are encouraged to play the ball out from the back, United are the only team among the top six sides where the goalkeeper is asked to play it long. On the other hand, the Spanish national team implement a completely different style – the keeper encouraged to act as a sweeper and play short. The resulting conundrum is that while De Gea appears extraordinary, even superhuman at times for United, he has so far looked ordinary for his national side – particularly getting exposed during the World Cup. One only has to compare his passing stats to Manchester City’s Ederson to understand the extent to which his passing has suffered. His passing accuracy of 57.5% last season pales in comparison to the Brazilian who had an outstanding accuracy of 85.3%.Surely, a move to a much more possession oriented side would benefit his game in a tactical sense as well.
Even from a financial standpoint, De Gea’s camp would be right to expect more from United as while under-performing star Alexis Sanchez continues to be the best paid in England, De Gea’s salary is not even close to that of the Chilean. Such is De Gea’s stature in the current scenario that he has the absolute authority to name his price and United should very well be prepared to yield, failing which one can be sure there will be no shortage of suitors for the player.
As Mourinho’s comments on Friday spread over social media, there emerged reports of Juventus being interested in taking De Gea to Italy, while at the same time, Madrid too might be interested – new signing Courtois having struggled since his cut price move to the capital the summer. While De Gea is probably the best player in United’s squad, at the moment, they just don’t seem to be doing enough to keep him in Mancunia,
All things considered, it might well be the perfect time for David De Gea to finally put an end to his Manchester journey and seek greener pastures elsewhere.