It’s been just over 24 hours since news broke that Victor Valdes was training with Manchester United. Now the reason behind why the Red Devils have agreed to allow the former Barcelona star complete his recovery at Carrington is clear - and that’s because Louis van Gaal wants to sign him.
That Van Gaal is interested in signing a top-class free agent comes as no surprise. Which manager wouldn’t want to sign an experienced player who has won everything, understands their philosophy, and still has plenty to offer?
But there’s a reason why Van Gaal should approach the Valdes deal with extreme caution - and that’s David de Gea, Manchester United’s first-choice goalkeeper who still hasn’t signed a new contract yet, despite the fact his current deal expires in the summer of 2016.
What sort of message would Van Gaal be sending out to De Gea, now one of the world’s very best keepers, if he agrees to offer Valdes a permanent contract at Old Trafford?
It’s not as if Manchester United have enough fixtures this season to justify signing Valdes as a back-up goalkeeper. The Red Devils aren’t competing in Europe and are already out of the Capital One Cup, leaving them with just the Premier League and FA Cup to concentrate on.
- Victor Valdes passes Manchester United medical
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- Victor Valdes to train with Manchester United
De Gea is a goalkeeper who wants to play at every available opportunity, while Valdes - despite his advancing years - possesses the same mentality. Just because he’s 32 and has left the Camp Nou, doesn’t mean he plans to take it easy for the next couple of years while earning easy money here and there before retiring.
Man United fans should be concerned
Valdes, a top professional, made a conscious decision to test himself with another top club - away from the Barcelona bubble - before finally hanging up his gloves. It wasn’t an easy choice. Barca were desperate for him to stay put, and so his single-mindedness to take a risk was admirable.
While his move to AS Monaco failed to materialise because of the untimely anterior cruciate ligament injury he suffered back in March, his gamble could pay off much better than he first imagined if he does secure a move to Old Trafford.
But Manchester United fans should feel more concerned, than excited, by this signing because of De Gea’s perilous contract predicament.
De Gea could delay signing contract
With Real Madrid reportedly interested in his services, De Gea is in no rush to put pen to paper on a new contract with the Red Devils. Reports suggesting that the Spaniard has already agreed a £120,000-a-week deal with his current employers are premature.
Van Gaal, while he will not enjoy bowing to player power, should be doing everything he can to convince De Gea - now one of the world’s top five goalkeepers - that his future belongs at Old Trafford, rather than the Bernabeu or elsewhere.
But signing Valdes will almost certainly convince De Gea and his agent to hold fire on signing the new contract for a little longer. What happens, for example, if Van Gaal starts rotating the two keepers, or even decides to drop De Gea down to the subs’ bench for a few games.
That Van Gaal would be prepared to jeopardise Manchester United’s chances of tying down to a long-term contract is mystifying. Valdes might be a goalkeeper of considerable class, but he has nine years on De Gea, who is of a much better standard in any case.
Two top goalkeepers = Trouble
There’s no doubt that Valdes would be a significant upgrade on United’s current second-choice goalkeeper, Anders Lindegaard, but it’s been proven time and time again that having two top goalkeepers vying for the number one jersey will lead to trouble.
Take the situation at Chelsea now, for example. Petr Cech, because of his personality and temperament, is making things easy for Jose Mourinho by keeping his mouth shut and working hard - but he’s not happy playing second-fiddle to Thibaut Courtois and is likely to leave Stamford Bridge in January.
Lindegaard is the perfect back-up goalkeeper: he knows he’s not in De Gea’s class, so is content to sit on the bench. But he is a reliable option on the rare occasions he’s required.
Perhaps Van Gaal feels United are lacking leaders - and that Valdes would be a positive influence both on and off the pitch. And while this might be true, is it really worth upsetting one of the club’s best players - whose contract is ticking down to its expiry date - for the sake of some additional leadership?