Will this be David De Gea's last season at Manchester United?
When David De Gea signed for Manchester United in 2011, many thought he'd be United's long-term goalkeeping solution following the legendary Edwin van der Sar's retirement. In the beginning, it's fair to say the Spaniard failed to meet expectations.
Sir Alex Ferguson only missed three United games in his entire career as Manchester United manager. One was to attend his son's wedding, the second to attend his brother's wife's funeral and the last to scout De Gea. There was no doubt the Atletico Madrid prodigy possessed talent and skill but, for a scrawny kid from Spain, the Premier League's physicality was a rude awakening.
De Gea didn't sit idle, though. During his first United season, he went through a strict training regime to bulk up. With strength augmenting his endless talent, the United shot-stopper blossomed into the keeper we know today.
After just two years of the Scot's tutelage, De Gea faced another adjustment when Sir Alex called time on his career. Under three different managers, De Gea has since won an FA Cup, League Cup, and Europa League. Those are participation ribbons for a player with the class and ambition to win Premier and Champions Leagues. He has been unfortunate in his timing, coming to United at a time when he is the sole representation of consistent, professional quality.
The facts are simple. Had De Gea made the move to Real Madrid three years ago he would have three Champions League crowns under his belt. At United, he wonders whether his team will qualify for next year's competition. For a team of United's stature, the goalkeeper is relied upon far too much. He is there to save the occasional game for the club, not the majority. It is no surprise then, that he mulls over his future.
De Gea’s contract comes to an end this coming summer. United hold the option to extend it one more year. United have been in contract talks with the Spaniard for over a year now without making headway. The player displays no urgency to sign. What else can reports claim except that he is waiting to see the outcome of United’s season before making any decisions?
In recent interviews, De Gea has reiterated his happiness in Manchester but stopped short of committing his future to the club.
United boss Jose Mourinho doesn't seem very confident his star man will stay.
I am not confident, But I’m not also… how do you say?... the opposite of confident. I am not worried. I am not more than worried. I cannot find the word in English. Let’s see what happens. Only the club, David and David’s people can answer to that. My comment is only one: everybody knows how good he is; everybody knows how important he is for Manchester United.
Mourinho then seemed to nudge Ed Woodward into getting the deal over the line by adding:
If Manchester United wants to be better than it is now and not worse than it is now, obviously that would be very important to keep David.
If De Gea does choose to leave Old Trafford, it’s unlikely his dream move to Real Madrid would materialise. Last summer, the Champions League holders acquired Thibaut Courtois' services from Chelsea. The Belgian cost a mere £35 million, paltry when compared to his skill, pedigree, and the £66 million Liverpool shelled out for Alisson Becker.
Paris Saint-Germain reportedly hold a strong interest in De Gea. Italian legend Gianluigi Buffon arrived at the Parc Des Princes over the summer but is on the brink of retirement. There’s no doubt De Gea would be a huge improvement over Les Rouge et Bleu's other keeper, Alphonse Areola.
Italian giants Juventus are also rumoured to be interested in the Spaniard's services. Ex-Arsenal man Wojciech Szczęsny is Buffon's replacement in Turin. While undoubtedly efficient, the Pole clearly falls short of world class.
When the 2019 summer transfer window rolls around, De Gea must make a decision. United can take their one-year option but can they improve enough to interest their No.1 in signing on the dotted line? De Gea turns 29 next term. Even for a goalkeeper, time runs out too quickly. If United's trophy cabinet remains bare for another campaign, they may have to sell their most consistent player in order to gain something from his inevitable exit.