It seems inevitable that Real Madrid will make an offer for Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea in the summer, regardless of whether or not he puts pen to paper on a contract extension.
The Spanish ace is fast establishing his reputation as one of the best ‘keepers in world football - and there’s no way Real Madrid’s reported interest is anything less than genuine.
If you’re not convinced then ask yourself the following question: why wouldn’t the reigning European champions be interested in securing the services of the 24-year-old who looks set to be Spain’s number one goalkeeper for the next 10-plus years?
That De Gea has so far failed to commit his long-term future to the Red Devils - his current deal expires in the summer of 2016 - suggests he may be considering the possibility of leaving Old Trafford for the bright lights of the Bernabeu, just as Cristiano Ronaldo did five years ago.
Should Manchester United’s worst fears be realised once more then Louis van Gaal will need to sign another top-class goalkeeper to replace De Gea.
Here are five that might have what it takes to replace the world-class Spaniard at Old Trafford…
5. Simone Scuffet | Udinese
Udinese’s 18-year-old goalkeeper Simone Scuffet is widely regarded as one of Italian football’s great new hopes.
The Italy Under-18 international has been compared to Azzurri legend Gianluigi Buffon - praise simply doesn’t come any higher - and looks destined to become a world-class goalkeeper in his own right within the forthcoming years.
That Udinese head coach Andrea Stramaccioni has demoted Scuffet to the club’s second-choice ‘keeper behind Orestis Karnezis suggests Man United have an outside chance of successfully luring the ‘new Buffon’ to Old Trafford.
4. Petr Cech | Chelsea
Petr Cech has put a brave face on since being replaced by the excellent Thibaut Courtois at the start of this season, but the Chelsea legend looks certain to leave Stamford Bridge either in January or next summer.
At 32, Cech still has plenty to offer. Indeed, just last season he was named in the PFA’s Premier League Team of the Year.
Whether Jose Mourinho would agree to offload such a brilliant player to a direct rival is unclear. But, then again, less than 12 months ago he sold Juan Mata to the Red Devils. So this potential deal shouldn’t be ruled out from happening.
3. Victor Valdes | Free agent
Barcelona legend Victor Valdes, also 32, is on the hunt for a new club after deciding to leave the Camp Nou at the end of last season.
The veteran goalie, who has won the lot throughout his illustrious career, is currently in training with Manchester United and possesses the required qualities to walk straight into the Red Devils’ starting line-up.
Louis van Gaal knows him well, but will he be the same goalkeeper after his serious knee injury?
2. Marc-Andre ter Stegen | Barcelona
Marc-Andre ter Stegen, the highly-rated 22-year-old German goalkeeper, left Borussia Mönchengladbach for Barcelona in the summer, fully expecting to replace the departed Victor Valdes as the number one at the Camp Nou.
But it hasn’t panned out that way for the Germany international, who has failed to make a single La Liga appearance for the Catalan giants this season.
Ter Stegen has featured regularly in Europe, but he didn’t join Barcelona to watch 31-year-old Claudio Bravo keep goal for the La Liga outfit during each and every league match.
A Manchester United move would surely be tempting for the young star.
1. Hugo Lloris | Tottenham
Thibaut Courtois and David de Gea are the two best goalkeepers in the Premier League at present, but Tottenham’s Hugo Lloris isn’t far behind.
The France international, 27, has been sublime for Tottenham since completing a surprise move to White Hart Lane in 2012. Blessed with lightening-quick reactions and a tremendous ability to read the game, the former Lyon star would be a shrewd acquisition.
Lloris should be playing for a club competing in the Champions League, which is precisely where Manchester United are likely to be this time next season.