Former Manchester United goalkeeper coach Eric Steele has revealed the Red Devils were looking at four other goalkeepers before eventually deciding David de Gea was the ideal replacement for Edwin van der Sar.
United scouts recommended Germany’s Manuel Neuer, Argentina international Sergio Romero and French duo Hugo Lloris and Steve Mandanda before the decision was made to sign De Gea from Atletico Madrid in the summer of 2011.
“It was a long process, took me 18 months,” Steele, who now works at Derby County, told the Daily Mail. “We asked all the full-time scouts over the world to put forward their best goalkeeper. There were obviously other candidates; Manuel Neuer in Germany, Hugo Lloris and Steve Mandanda in France, Sergio Romero the Argentinian No 1.”
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Steele recognised De Gea's immense potential
Explaining why the decision was taken to sign De Gea over the other four goalkeepers, Steele added: “David was a decision that was joint with the manager, the coaching team, and scouting team. I first saw him when I was at Man City and he was playing against England in the Under 17s Championships. Spain won 1-0.
“He looked like a stray waif had come on the field and put a goalkeeper's shirt on. But he did things in that game. I just made a note, 'I like this kid.' Sure enough two years later his attributes fitted what United were looking for.”
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De Gea flourished after tough debut season
De Gea endured a difficult debut season at Old Trafford and many questioned whether United’s £17.8 million signing would ever be cut out for the rigours of English football.
But the aforementioned £17.8 million transfer fee now looks a drop in the ocean for a goalkeeper who is now widely considered one of the world’s best.
Manchester United face difficulty holding on to the 24-year-old Spain international this summer with his contract set to expire in just over 12 months time.
Real Madrid interest
Real Madrid are keeping a close eye on the situation, keen to sign De Gea as the long-term replacement for Iker Casillas should the opportunity arise.
That Manchester United are competitive again and all but certain to qualify for next season’s Champions League campaign may enhance the club’s chances of keeping him at Old Trafford; but the bright lights of the Bernabeu will always tempt world football’s most ambitious players - particularly those, like De Gea, who are from the city of Madrid.
Should United have signed Neuer instead?
Should De Gea leave United, Louis van Gaal has a ready-made replacement at his disposal in the form of Victor Valdes, but the former Barcelona goalkeeper has not played competitive football for the best part of a year and isn’t getting any younger either.
Some United fans reading this may feel the Red Devils should have opted for Neuer over De Gea.
The Germany international is considered by many to be the world’s best goalkeeper at this moment in time - the World Cup winner was nominated alongside Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo for the 2014 Ballon d’Or - although Lloris, now with Tottenham, may also have flourished at Old Trafford.
United fans: would you rather your clubs had signed David de Gea, Manuel Neuer or perhaps even Hugo Lloris back in the summer of 2011? Tell us by leaving a comment in the box below!