There was a significant moment in the career of David de Gea this weekend as the Manchester United goalkeeper replaced captain Iker Casillas in the Spain side, and it is something he is rightly proud of.
Casillas committed the latest in a recent spate of notable errors in the shock defeat to Slovenia on Thursday, which resulted in manager Vicente del Bosque dropping him in favour of De Gea for the following encounter with Luxembourg.
There had been calls before this Euro 2016 qualifier for Casillas to be replaced by De Gea, something unthinkable not so long ago, and De Bosque was unable to ignore pleas for the Real Madrid icon’s would-be successor to be given an early promotion.
De Gea responded by keeping a clean sheet as Spain clinched a comfortable 4-0 victory, during which Diego Costa scored a first goal for his adopted country. The Manchester United No.1 was thrilled to have contributed but his focus now returns to club duties.
He tweeted: "Very proud of helping in the victory of the @SeFutbol! Thanks for the messages! Tomorrow, 100% with @ManUtd again!"
De Gea has long been expected to replace Casillas when the World Cup winner bows out at international level, and it had appeared that the latter would retain his position despite the costly mistake against Slovenia.
Del Bosque claimed before the triumph over Luxembourg that it would be “impossible” to drop Casillas for “one mistake”, which appeared to suggest that, understandably, he had forgotten the travails his goalkeeper and team had endured at the World Cup.
Casillas was the most inept performer for Spain as they failed so dramatically to defend their title, and he has been unable to fully recover from the yips that seem to be significantly affecting his displays for both club and country.
It will be interesting to see what approach Del Bosque takes for the remainder of the qualifying campaign. Casillas is his captain, but is worryingly out of sorts. De Gea, on the other hand, is proving himself as one of the best in the business.
Casillas has made 158 appearances for Spain and captained them to three major tournament triumphs, and he has earned the right to bow out when he sees fit. But when his performances are so detrimental to the team, Del Bosque is left with little choice.
At 33 he is hardly shot to bits, but his future remains unclear. Not only is De Gea a rival on international duty, but there a renewed links between Real Madrid and the 23-year-old.
De Gea is under contract with Manchester United until the end of next season but, as of yet, the club have not made a formal offer to extend and improve his £52,000-per-week deal.
The club are expected to pull out the stops to keep De Gea at Old Trafford but, until they do, the speculation will persist.
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