In a season of disappointment for Manchester United, solace can be found in the performances of David de Gea.

The young goalkeeper has impressed many this season, and was this week voted Player of the Year by his fellow players and the club's fans.

Having arrived at Old Trafford from Atletico Madrid in 2011 for a fee believed to be around the £18million mark, de Gea initially struggled to come to terms with the physical nature of the Premier League.

Since then the 23-year-old has come on leaps and bounds and is proving himself to be one of the best young goalkeepers in the world.

However, his career is likely to stall now - that is unless he leaves Manchester United.

It may seem odd, leaving a club just as you've finally established yourself as a key figure, but if de Gea is to take over from Iker Casillas as Spain's undisputed number one, it's his only choice.

Though he's gradually adapted to the rough and tumble of English football, it's unlikely de Gea will ever be truly comfortable with teams bombarding him with crosses, nor will he ever relish aerial duels with the likes of Andy Carroll or Ricky Lambert.

A return to La Liga would automatically resolve this issue.

Real Madrid icon Casillas is hardly a giant in goal, but he's judged on his ability to save shots, and when it comes to that, de Gea has few peers in world football.

But it's not just the style of football that's holding him back, it's the quality too.

The fact of the matter is, if he stays at Old Trafford de Gea will not be playing Champions League football next season, in fact he's unlikely to be playing in Europe at all.

Is he likely to be considered a genuine threat to Casillas without playing European football? Probably not.

Will his game improve by facing the likes of Crystal Palace and Burnley? Unlikely.

Manchester United are in a transitional period, and that's not something that will be fixed simply by appointing Louis van Gaal or any other experienced manager.

With Manchester City and Chelsea continuing to flex their spending muscles, and Liverpool and Arsenal looking much improved, it's hard to see when United will return to face Europe's elite.

The current squad simply isn't good enough, and with no Champions League football, will they be able to attract the world's best?

If so, they better target defenders, and a lot of them.

Nemanjca Vidic has confirmed his exit while Patrice Evra's future is unclear. Add Rafael's inconsistent nature to the mix and you're in need of a whole new back four.

He's yet to make his senior national debut, but if de Gea is to challenge for Spain's number one jersey - and that's surely got to be his aim - he needs to be challenging for titles, both domestically and in Europe.

That's simply not going to happen in the next two years at Old Trafford.

So where should de Gea go if he's to kick on and become the world's best goalkeeper?

It's quite simply really, de Gea needs to go back to his routes, he needs to go back to Atletico Madrid.

For so long they've been the second team in the Spanish capital, but under Diego Simeone they're breaking the Real Madrid-Barcelona stronghold, and they remain on course for a La Liga and Champions League double.

As much as de Gea needs them, they may well need him if Thibaut Courtois is given the chance to challenge Petr Cech at Chelsea.

Born and raised in Madrid, he knows the club inside out having been at the club between the age of 10 and 20, and a return home seems the logical option for both player and club.

Back at the Vicente Calderon, de Gea would be playing for one of the world's most promising young managers, he'd constantly be in the eye of national coach Vicente del Bosque, and he'd be in direct competition with Casillas - the one obstacle between him and Spain's number one shirt.

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Topics:
David de Gea
Football
Manchester United