David de Gea has unwittingly become a pawn in a very expensive chess game between Manchester United and Real Madrid.
For the last three months, Los Blancos have courted a player once said that no amount of money could tempt him to play for Atletico Madrid's great rivals.
The stopper was, of course, at Real's great city rivals from the age of eight before signing on at Old Trafford.
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A continued persistence from Real's president Florentino Perez had appeared to have the desired effect when Louis van Gaal revealed that de Gea was not in the right from of mind to play in the earlier games of this season.
That told us that the keeper had finally been persuaded to swap Manchester for Madrid. A fee was swiftly agreed and all that remained was for a dotting of the I's and a crossing of the T's.
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Left in limbo
Unfortunately, such a basic part of the deal seemed beyond both clubs as neither was able to register their paperwork with La Liga authorities ahead of Monday's Spanish transfer deadline.
De Gea, left in complete limbo, would've been livid at the turn of events.
He now faces the prospect of four more months minimum at a club that he doesn't want to be at, but with the prospect of moving to a club that want his services but, frankly, couldn't be bothered to pull out all of the stops to ensure that the transfer would happen.
Would you really want to play for a club that has such insouciance towards its new signings?
If he needed an example of just how well, or not, Perez plays the game, he only need look at contemporary Keylor Navas.
Signed a year ago with a view to being number one keeper, Iker Casillas frustrated the Costa Rican for a season before Navas could see his dream of wearing the number one shirt realised.
Yet no sooner has he become the owner of the jersey than Madrid want him to pack his bags.
There's a new kid in town. Services no longer required. Move along now, nothing to see here...
Football can be devastatingly brutal at times and that's something that all professional footballers understand from the very beginning of their career. Here one minute, gone the next.
But Madrid have outdone themselves on this occasion.
Looking at the state of affairs objectively, you have to question exactly why the deal fell down. The fee had been agreed for some time and it's just a little odd that at precisely one minute after the deadline the paperwork is filed.
De Gea would do well to ask the same before trying to push through the deal during the next window.
If Louis van Gaal decides to play hard ball, the Spaniard may be left twiddling his thumbs with VIctor Valdes until January, another wholly unsatisfactory situation.