Soon after his proposed transfer to Real Madrid collapsed at the last minute, David de Gea has signed a new four-year deal at Manchester United with an option to extend for a further year.
Upon the deal to Real collapsing, widely perceived to be the fault of the Spanish club, Manchester United won't mind a muscle, De Gea has committed his future to United.
There are reasons for this. Putting aside suggestions of De Gea’s genuine desire to stay at the club, De Gea at the very least strategically realised that he needed to play regular football in order to play as Spain’s number one at the upcoming 2016 European Championships in France, and to develop himself as a player further.
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Therefore, he needed to sign a deal so United could guarantee him a number one starting position, in contrast to how the season has panned out so far with Sergio Romero taking his spot. United got their way in the end, for now.
In any event, as a goalkeeper aching to become the best in the world, he could not have been less happier seeing the likes of Joe Hart, Thibaut Courtois and Manuel Neuer getting crucial game time in contrast to him being left out.
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Now given Thibaut Courtois is out with a long-term injury, David de Gea may feel a bit of Schadenfreude, as he now has an opportune moment to re-affirm his standing as the league’s best goalkeeper in the PFA stakes.
De Gea also realises that now Iker Casillas has left Madrid, he remains the front-runner to be the Spanish number one anyway if he plays regularly, so in crucial respects, his football ambitions are preserved. It cannot be a serious argument even for the most puritanical of Spanish fans that Kiko Casilla, even if he plays for Real Madrid, is currently a better bet than De Gea for Euro 2016. United will be beaming that their goalkeeping crisis has been solved for now. They could not have sustained with Romero in goal for the rest of the season.
It appears Real Madrid will still try to get their man at some point. You cannot expect them to go away like this.
Their symbolic status of being the biggest club in the world will be dented, even if only by a little if they fail to. This move was written in the stars. De Gea is Spanish; once played for their rivals; wanted to move back to Spain where his girlfriend lives and was guaranteed to be Spanish number one if he did so.
If Real Madrid fail to eventually get their man – something they don’t fail at very often – it will be a statement to world football that they are not as big as they boast. Yes, this is the club that has the likes of Gareth Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo and James Rodriguez, all the history and the glory, but this entire transfer process did somewhat humiliate them, making them look not so powerful after all.
Madrid have made all sorts of artificial, commercial excuses to try and spin the scenario, speaking legalese with a sophistically written chronology in their recent club statement attempting to outline and pin the blame on United. This may work at a facile level for some, but only temporarily, as people will now expect them to put things right and sign De Gea eventually.
This is because most will see through the vacuity of Madrid’s excuses. Most have interpreted the entire saga by seeing United, Real’s commercial rival having outsmarted them, winning the battle of tactics.
Most will have also realised that it was Real Madrid who failed to get the paperwork on time, and at the end of the day, that remains the material reason why De Gea is not now a Madrid player. Of course, I would not be surprised if United were in reality employing delay tactics to try and prevent the deal from closing, but the cunning reality is that there is no tangible evidence for this.
United still did everything by the book on their side and filed their papers on time. It’s not what you know, it’s what you can prove after all. United’s rebuttal to Real Madrid’s statement had a patronising, condescending tone about it, embarrassing Madrid. Real will want revenge.
On a different tangent, the way this saga panned out for now is especially great for United, given how they sought to recover from being supposedly ‘snubbed’ by Pedro and reportedly chasing shadows in the likes of Neymar for which they have been mocked for. It also ends by United appearing to have got one over Real, for now. In addition, if new boy Anthony Martial can also perform, any cavities remaining in their massive global image will be filled to some degree.
United will be very difficult if Real Madrid come knocking again. Florentino Perez’s rival, former president Ramon Calderon says how there is now no guarantee De Gea will ever join Madrid. Of course, his statement is a political attempt to undermine confidence in Perez’s tenure. Perez will now try to restore order in the senate of Madrid and get his man. Though Perez has so far openly denied the possibility of a January move, he has not denied a move later on.
Real Madrid cannot persist with their current goalkeeping situation for too long. As good as Keylor Navas and Kiko Casilla are, they are not at an elite level, like Iker Casillas once was, and David de Gea now is. They are not Galacticos; the kind of player Real Madrid wants. In that sense, De Gea has confidence that Real will come back again. They need him now.
The advantages for both De Gea and United by signing this new deal extend further. Now, De Gea ups his wages, keeping him happy which is good for both parties, and at the same time gives United the power to be able to negotiate a higher fee for De Gea if he is to be eventually sold. And if he stays for good, though not likely, well, all is well, with De Gea getting a chance to become arguably the greatest goalkeeper United have ever had.
What fee would we be looking at should the De Gea move take place?
Well, firstly, if Real Madrid were prepared to pay the equivalent of £29 million for De Gea in the last year of his contract, any potential move to Madrid now, given De Gea has signed a four-year deal seems very likely to break the world record fee for a goalkeeper, still set by the legendary Gianluigi Buffon, which is not too far off at £32.6 million.
Mind you, that was sealed in 2001, so fourteen years on, considering inflation and the extortionate, ultra-capitalist state of the transfer market now, do not expect any De Gea fee to exceed Buffon’s by only a few pennies.
Considering the economics further, De Gea is in a lengthy contract, young and Spanish, which itself guarantees that premium rate. The extra money needed now cannot be said to be only three or four million pounds more. Real understand this and will have to pay up. This is why De Gea will not be too worried. Not only does he know that they need him, but if Real were prepared to pay that much for him this summer, why would they not be willing to pay a bit more?
It is a Catch-22 situation for Real in any event, with the least embarrassing option being for them to make a move. Even if United end up selling De Gea, Real will still be humiliated. Real Madrid would be the club that paid more than they would have had to for De Gea, after waiting at least an extra year all because they couldn’t move quicker earlier, and for all their stature as the world’s most famous club, couldn’t get the paperwork done in time.
However, they will still get De Gea and can still spin things to advertise the fact that Real Madrid has broken the world record. In contrast, if they abandon their chase, they will be mocked for failing to get the deal done on time, and failing to get him on a free afterwards either. That would be more embarrassing. No wonder Real are desperately trying to blame United’s ‘lack of transfer experience’.
Of course, there is always that possibility of De Gea being so angry at Real for their failure that he does not want to play for them anymore. However, if we believe in the more modest and likelier proposition, De Gea still hopes for a Real Madrid move at some point, so playing well for United will be a big incentive for that to happen, as given United would charge a record fee, De Gea will have to keep up to justify that price tag.
Furthermore, De Gea will want to play well in the Champions League, as that is the platform where he can compete with the likes of Manuel Neuer and test his skills against the best forwards in the game. If De Gea has a catastrophic season, would Madrid still be in for him?
Having signed the contract, the question is now how long through the contract will De Gea stay? We cannot be sure for definite, but you might argue De Gea may move on to Madrid at the end of this season or the next. The clue is in the context, because as said earlier, Madrid has quite a precarious goalkeeping situation which will need to be addressed soon, and United will not want to run down to the end of those four years if another saga like the one that has just passed appears likely on the cards. This situation is like the Cristiano Ronaldo story in 2009, where Ronaldo stayed only for an extra year at United despite appearing set to move in 2008.
Alongside the greater negotiation power United now have, they now have a lot more time to look at alternative replacements should the deal take place next summer. So far, only Hugo Lloris, Captain of the French team would be both capable and available to replace De Gea, especially given United now have two French internationals in their squad in Morgan Schneiderlin and Anthony Martial.
If United can secure at least top four this year, and Tottenham Hotspur fail to make the Champions League this season again, Lloris, a world-class goalkeeper and International Captain, nearing 30 then would seem very likely to push for a move to Manchester.
As difficult as it is, to deal with Tottenham’s Daniel Levy, United would have the funds and a set market precedent confirming that Lloris should not be more expensive than a De Gea world-record fee, however much Levy would try to up the price tag.
In addition, we must also consider the fact that Lloris would be one sulky goalkeeper in the midst of all this; therefore Levy may be pressured to sell. Throughout the summer, De Gea is and was still at an elite club that had got into Europe. Lloris would not be. Of course, this is easier speculated than done.
It remains true that De Gea, in hindsight may now feel happy that he did not make the move just at this stage yet. Real Madrid are not doing too brilliantly so far this season. Question marks remain so far over Rafa Benitez’ tactical setup. Barcelona, though not yet at top gear still look like the team to beat.
Of course, things can change.