It seems the norm that every transfer window links David De Gea to Real Madrid, and this summer looks like this shall continue.
True, two years ago now he came within a completed fax of joining Los Blancos, and I think that breakdown was one of the most fortuitous things to happen in a long time.
One of the most consistent performers over the past few seasons, De Gea has become one of, if not the absolute best goalkeeper in world football. This being said, he has somewhat flattered to deceive this season, so much so that he has been criticised by the manager publicly.
There has been plenty of opportunities over the past couple of years to lay the stories to rest, and publicly announce that he wants to stay and Old Trafford for the foreseeable future, a step that he has never taken. True, he signed a long-term deal in the aftermath of his failed move, and he does praise the supporters but never quashed talk of a move to his native Spain.
Should he move, which I believe he is indeed likely to, it raises the question of who would replace him? Up until Edwin van der Sar’s arrival in 2005, United did not have the best track record with goalkeepers following Peter Schmeichel’s departure, with the likes of Mark Bosnich, Tim Howard, and Roy Carroll ultimately unable to land the number one shirt with any great authority or longevity.
The cheapest and most obvious one is Sergio Romero, the deputy this and last season. Whilst on paper, he may seem a good option, being Argentina’s first choice, and having kept numerous clean sheets when played this season, I do not believe this to be the best choice.
True, it is hard to look at the clean sheet tally, but one must remember the teams he has featured against. In Europe, he has kept Zorya Luhansk and Feyenoord, Saint-Etienne and FC Rostov at bay, whilst domestically he has managed to shut out Wigan Athletic, Reading, and Sunderland. Although it is merely an opinion, but none of these teams can be classed as top teams, and feature the attacking potency as the Real Madrid’s, Tottenham Hotspur’s, Chelsea’s and Bayern Munich’s of this world.
True, he has been seen to make some very good saves in matches, but goalkeeping is more than about shot-stopping. You simply cannot be a professional goalkeeper without this trait, but your decision-making, communication, and distribution must also be on point, and this is where I believe Romero falls short. He is prone, even as recently as away against Sunderland, to rush needlessly from his box when the defence are in complete control, or to misjudge a floated cross in.
One thing in his favour, however, is his age, at 30 years old, he is approaching his peak as a goalkeeper, but both his managers and Manchester United have heavily relied on David De Gea, thus pointing that he may be relied on as a good understudy, but ultimately not a top-class number one.
If not Romero, united do still have Joel Pereira, recently recalled from a loan stint with Belenenses in Portugal, where he featured eight times. Whilst he is extremely promising and has delivered numerous impressive performances for the reserves, a call up as number one for a player who is relatively unproven at a high level is a risk, though one that could be made. If this should be the case, however, it would be expected that he would be at least the current cup keeper, which indicates this is not what Jose Mourinho has in mind.
So if the next potential goalkeeper is not to be promoted internally, who is there?
Currently, there are a number of suitable replacements, personally, I believe no one would fit the part better than Hugo Lloris from Tottenham Hotspur. He is captain on club and country level, has all the attributes to be a huge success, shot stopping, handling, distribution and all round presence. He is also thirty years old, meaning he is almost peak age, and could potentially have six plus years left at the top of his game.
The downside to him is that the chairman, Daniel Levy, is notoriously difficult to deal with in terms of transfers, even Sir Alex Ferguson mentioned on occasion he didn’t like to do business with Spurs due to this.
There are two other names being bounded around in the press as potential replacements should De Gea leave, these being Gianluigi Donnarumma from AC Milan, and Jan Oblak from Atletico Madrid.
Both of these have potential to be ideal replacements, Donnarumma being touted as the next Gianluigi Buffon, and long-term successor in the Italy team and linked with Juventus. At the tender age of 18, he has years of maturing and improving ahead of him, yet is already highly regarded in the footballing world. The main issue with him is now that AC Milan have been taken over, they are a cash-rich club, and have no need to sell, meaning they may demand a huge fee to part with what may turn into one of their most prized assets.
Jan Oblak is regarded in Spain as one of the best in the league and has replaced De Gea at Atletico Madrid. Another young keeper with a growing reputation, he has potential to be a number one for years to come and undoubtedly would settle quickly into most teams in football. He has reported stated his openness to a switch to United, yet the media outlets reporting this are questionable at best. Although Atletico may be easier to deal with, the reports that we are close to triggering the buyout for Antoine Griezmann may make them more reluctant to sell, I cannot see a team with aspirations for La Liga and the Champions League selling two of their top players.
If David De Gea does leave, Mourinho must look to bring in a top class stopper as a replacement, and United will need to ensure that there is one that is ready for the step up immediately, so as to avoid “transitional” stages.
At least Mourinho has a record of signing good keepers, notably Petr Cech, and Thibaut Courtois, United are no doubt in safe hands
Written by Nathan Downs