De Gea does not play for either the Spanish national team or Manchester United. The star goalkeeper is going through the toughest period of his career


But there is a chance to become a Euro­pean cham­pi­on.

Luis Enrique. Luis Enrique is the main hero of the Span­ish nation­al team. He ral­lied the team and became its leader

Ferguson protégé

David De Gea is the undis­put­ed star of world foot­ball. All Euro­pean scouts knew about his enor­mous tal­ent, even when the Spaniard was in the Atléti­co Madrid acad­e­my. Of course, Sir Alex Fer­gu­son also saw De Gea’s prospects.

For­mer Man­ches­ter Unit­ed goal­keep­ing coach Eric Steele recalled: “In my mem­o­ry, Sir Alex only missed two Man­ches­ter Unit­ed match­es.” The first was the Man­ches­ter Der­by in 2000, when his son got mar­ried. The sec­ond is the League Cup match with Scun­thor­pe. That day he went to Spain to see the mag­nif­i­cent De Gea. It was 2010 and we were prepar­ing for the day when Edwin van der Sar would retire. I was con­vinced that 19-year-old De Gea was the right choice. First, I showed Sir Alex a three-minute clip of David play­ing, and then we flew to watch his Atléti­co Madrid match against Valen­cia. David played amaz­ing­ly — com­po­sure, con­cen­tra­tion, reflex­es. He made one incred­i­ble save as the ball cleared out of a crowd of play­ers. Fer­gu­son need­ed 65 min­utes to under­stand every­thing.”





Steele admit­ted that the great Scot nev­er crit­i­cized De Gea under him. On the con­trary, Fer­gu­son defend­ed the young goal­keep­er from exter­nal crit­i­cism. In the sum­mer of 2011, Man­ches­ter Unit­ed paid 25 mil­lion euros for him, but until the win­ter the Spaniard could not win the fight for a place in goal against the Dane Anders Lin­de­gaard. Only the Scan­di­na­vian’s injury allowed De Gea to become Man­ches­ter Unit­ed’s num­ber one. The media just laughed at him — in the fall of 2011, the goal­keep­er was caught steal­ing a donut in a super­mar­ket, so his rep­u­ta­tion worked against the Spaniard.

Echo of the World Cup

In 2012, as De Gea was wal­low­ing in crit­i­cism, ex-Man­ches­ter Unit­ed goal­keep­er Peter Schme­ichel said: “Even before David played his first game, the media began to put pres­sure on him. If you open a news­pa­per and it says how bad you are, soon­er or lat­er you start to believe it. How­ev­er, I am con­fi­dent that De Gea will be the club’s first choice goal­keep­er for the next 20 years.”

Schme­ichel’s fore­cast, appar­ent­ly, will not come true. De Gea was Unit­ed’s first-choice goal­keep­er for almost nine years, from the begin­ning of 2012 to the end of 2020. But the Spaniard began to fail at the World Cham­pi­onships in Rus­sia. For us, that very match of the 1/8 finals is the tri­umph of Igor Akin­feev in the penal­ty shootout. And for Spain, that game, and the entire tour­na­ment, was a fail­ure for De Gea. It was the goal­keep­er of the Span­ish nation­al team in his home­land who was made one of the main cul­prits for the ear­ly rel­e­ga­tion (along with coach Julen Lopetegui, who was fired right before the start because of his con­tract with Real Madrid). First­ly, De Gea did not save a sin­gle shot in the penal­ty shootout with Rus­sia. Sec­ond­ly, six out of sev­en shots on tar­get by the Spaniards end­ed in goals. Third­ly, he made a seri­ous mis­take in the match with Por­tu­gal — he deflect­ed the ball into his own goal after Cris­tiano Ronal­do’s shot.

After the World Cup, the media and fans demand­ed that the new coach Luis Enrique recon­sid­er his num­ber one choice. But he gave De Gea a chance and in the 2018 Nations League match­es he relied on the Unit­ed goal­keep­er. How­ev­er, in the match­es of the Euro 2020 qual­i­fy­ing tour­na­ment, where the Span­ish nation­al team was led by Robert Moreno, the main goal­keep­er was Kepa Arriz­a­bal­a­ga from Chelsea. At the end of 2019, Luis Enrique returned to the nation­al team and briefly made De Gea the main one again. At that time, it was a log­i­cal deci­sion — Kepa gave up abrupt­ly last year and sat on the bench at Chelsea.

David de Gea. “Why is every­one shak­ing so much around the goal­keep­ers?” Roy Keane calls on Man­ches­ter Unit­ed to get rid of De Gea

Weak season

In the fall of 2019, De Gea extend­ed his con­tract with Man­ches­ter Unit­ed until 2023. Accord­ing to British media reports, the Spaniard now earns the most in the Eng­lish Pre­mier League — 375 thou­sand pounds per week (19.5 mil­lion pounds per year).

These are hard­ly relat­ed things, but in the last year and a half De Gea has start­ed to play worse. The mis­takes became more fre­quent, there were more goals con­ced­ed and few­er saves. Over two sea­sons (2018/19 and 2019/20), De Gea made sev­en errors in the Pre­mier League that led to a goal. In the same peri­od, only Mar­tin Dubrav­ka and Jor­dan Pick­ford allowed more — eight.

This led to the fact that in the sum­mer of 2020, Ole Gun­nar Sol­sk­jaer seri­ous­ly thought about chang­ing his num­ber one — Man­ches­ter Unit­ed grad­u­ate Dean Hen­der­son returned from a suc­cess­ful loan to Sheffield Unit­ed and dur­ing the course of the sea­son he achieved the right to be con­sid­ered the main goal­keep­er of the super club. Sol­sk­jaer said this about goal­keep­ers in Feb­ru­ary this year: “It’s not about who won more tro­phies. The point is what you can give to the team at a spe­cif­ic moment. I was very lucky to have these goal­keep­ers on the ros­ter. Bring­ing Dean back was a con­scious deci­sion, we want­ed real com­pe­ti­tion. It’s get­ting hard­er and hard­er for me to leave Dean out of the line­up because every time he comes on he plays real­ly well.”

The words of the Unit­ed head coach are con­firmed by sta­tis­tics. De Gea played 25 and a half match­es in the last cham­pi­onship, Hen­der­son — 12 and a half. The Eng­lish­man has a high­er per­cent­age of shots reflect­ed, and the aver­age num­ber of points scored under him by Man­ches­ter Unit­ed, and the num­ber of clean sheets on aver­age per 90 min­utes.

Simon is stronger today

The night­mare club sea­son end­ed with a real sports tragedy for De Gea — in the Europa League final with Vil­lar­real, the Spaniard missed all 11 post-match penal­ties and missed the deci­sive kick. The Man­ches­ter Unit­ed goal­keep­er was crushed — even Fer­gu­son went down to the lawn after the award cer­e­mo­ny and per­son­al­ly reas­sured his pro­tégé.

De Gea is a poor penal­ty saver. In the match with Vil­lar­real, the Spaniard even had a cheat sheet — he knew how all the oppo­nents hit most often. But still, Man­ches­ter Unit­ed lost. De Gea saved his last penal­ty in April 2016.

Unai Simon is the cur­rent goal­keep­er of the Span­ish nation­al team. The 24-year-old goal­keep­er of Ath­let­ic Bil­bao has bet­ter sta­tis­tics on saved penal­ties, which he proved in the quar­ter-final series with Switzer­land — the Basque saved two shots and con­fused Var­gas with his move­ments on the line, who sent the ball high­er. After the meet­ing, Simon was award­ed the prize for the best foot­ball play­er of the match.

But, of course, it was not only because of the penal­ty that Luis Enrique chose the Ath­let­ic goal­keep­er. The Basques took tenth place in the last Span­ish Cham­pi­onship, but only the top five teams in the table missed out. Simon is phys­i­cal­ly strong, which dis­tin­guish­es him from his com­peti­tors, and is also good at set pieces — in Spain, the Basque is con­sid­ered one of the best at tak­ing cor­ners and free kicks. It is impor­tant to add that Enrique did not decide on the first num­ber right before the tour­na­ment — Simon made his debut for the Span­ish nation­al team on Novem­ber 11, 2020, but since then he has played all the match­es, except for the only qual­i­fy­ing one (a friend­ly game with Lithua­nia).

It is unlike­ly that Simon is a goal­keep­er for many years. But a strong sea­son cou­pled with De Gea’s decline allowed the Basque to become num­ber one. Of course, he’s not per­fect. His hor­ren­dous mis­take in the round of 16 against Croa­t­ia will now for­ev­er be his mark. But here it is appro­pri­ate to note that dur­ing the break De Gea approached Simon and spent a long time set­ting him up for the sec­ond half. This is also an impor­tant touch — the star goal­keep­er is not at all offend­ed by the sit­u­a­tion, but sup­ports his col­league.

David De Gea. Man­ches­ter Unit­ed could swap De Gea for Oblak

Future

De Gea only made his first cap for Spain in 2014, so he was not part of the gold­en squad that won three major tour­na­ments in a row. At the World Cham­pi­onships in Brazil, the “red fury” did not make it out of the group; at Euro 2016 it was elim­i­nat­ed in the 1/8 finals, just like three years ago in Rus­sia. So for De Gea, the cur­rent tour­na­ment is a chance to win a full-fledged tro­phy with the nation­al team, albeit in reserve sta­tus.

But after the end of Euro 2020, the Spaniard will again plunge into the sad real­i­ty of Man­ches­ter Unit­ed. The Man­ches­ter Evening News writes that Sol­sk­jaer is inclined to keep Hen­der­son as the team’s num­ber one. Sky Sports expert James Coop­er also believes that De Gea is six years old­er, has a huge salary and two years left on his con­tract. The Spaniard signed an agree­ment with Man­ches­ter Unit­ed even before the start of the coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic, and it is obvi­ous that in the cur­rent cir­cum­stances the Spaniard’s salary puts a lot of pres­sure on the Red Dev­ils’ bal­ance sheet.

Sell­ing De Gea is pos­si­ble, but dif­fi­cult — Trans­fer­markt val­ues ​​the 30-year-old Spaniard at 18 mil­lion euros, but Man­ches­ter Unit­ed will prob­a­bly ask for more. Of course, the goal­keep­er him­self is unlike­ly to want to part with a salary of 375 thou­sand pounds a week — no one else in the world will offer him such an amount. It is like­ly that De Gea will still remain Hen­der­son­’s back­up, but he must fight for a place in the start­ing line­up. The end of his career is still far away.