It seems an age since David De Gea could do no wrong every time he took his place between the sticks for Manchester United or Spain.
But the man widely considered to be the finest goalkeeper on the planet all of a sudden looks a shadow of his former self.
There’s no denying the incredible quality he possesses, but a series of mistakes have hurt De Gea’s confidence to an extent thought to be impossible just over six months ago.
The 28-year-old endured a harrowing fortnight at the 2018 World Cup where he played every minute until Spain crashed out of the first knockout round at the hands of Russia.
Not only did La Roja concede seven times in their four matches, but their No. 1 also recorded the lowest save rate (14.3 per cent) of any goalkeeper throughout the tournament.
Perhaps most tellingly of all, though, the memory of De Gea letting a Cristiano Ronaldo strike slip through his gloves in the 3-3 draw between Spain and Portugal will remain vivid until his form improves.
The United stopper has been the subject of severe criticism amid his current slump and there have been calls for Chelsea’s Kepa Arrizabalaga to take over on international duty.
Rather than the constant scolding being water off a duck’s back, it appears to be getting to De Gea.
ESPN claims the Red Devils star is judged more harshly than some of his teammates because of the club he plays for.
Their report reads: “De Gea, United's player of the year in four of the last five seasons, believes he is being unfairly targeted while sources have told ESPN FC he believes he is being treated harshly because he plays in the Premier League and not for Real Madrid or Barcelona in La Liga.
“Despite his unhappiness at what he believes is a ‘lack of respect,’ sources have told ESPN FC that De Gea will not walk away from international football and is determined to keep his place for the European Championship in 2020.”
EFFECT ON MAN UNITED FUTURE
ESPN also understand De Gea has adopted a similarly defiant stance on his future at Old Trafford despite the slow progress of negotiating his contract renewal.
The former Atletico Madrid ‘keeper has just three clean sheets to his name this season, the last of which came way back in United’s second Champions League group fixture against Valencia on October 2.
Of course, the defenders in front of De Gea are equally accountable for keeping the ball out of their net, but there’s no question he isn’t quite himself right now.