Man Utd are now worth £2.9 billion and they have just overtaken Real Madrid to be named the world’s most valuable club, according to Forbes. Off the pitch they are flying due to a powerful brand and superb marketing acumen, but on the pitch it is another matter entirely. While United finished sixth in the Premiership and won the Europa League last season, Real Madrid won La Liga and then secured a second consecutive Champions League. It is easy to see why David De Gea would want to defect, leaving Old Trafford for the European Champions, but Man Utd should fight tooth and nail to keep him.
Every year Man United give out the Sir Matt Busby Award for the club’s player of the season. De Gea won it in 2012-13, 2013-14 and 2015-16, and only the strong form of Ander Herrera stopped him winning it for a fourth consecutive season in 2016-17. That says something about Man Utd’s diminished status as an attacking force, but it also points to the high regard De Gea is held in at the club. At 26, he will only get better and can expect at least a decade further at the top.
Moving to Real Madrid would make a great deal of sense for him as he is born and bred in Madrid, and they are currently the world’s best team. It would make sense for Real because there are question marks around Keylor Navas, seen as a weak link in an all-conquering side. But it would not make sense for Man Utd.
Yes, they have a strong back-up in Sergio Romero. The Argentinean excelled in the Europa League and kept two clean sheets in his two league appearances last season. But he is not at the same level as De Gea and there is a reason he is number two at Old Trafford.
Man Utd’s great challenge now is to catch up with Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich on the pitch. Selling your best players is counterproductive to such ambitions. They clearly do not need the money as they have deeper pockets than Real. That allowed them to break the world transfer record in signing Paul Pogba from Juventus last summer, and they are likely to spend a fortune this time around. A £31 million deal for Victor Lindelof is wrapped up, Ivan Perisic is said to be close to securing a £44 million move and United are also tipped to sign Alvaro Morata from Real for more than £50 million.
That final deal is important because it could mean Man Utd are forced to let go of De Gea if they want to sign the Spanish forward from Real Madrid, but the Jose Mourinho can afford to play hardball. Morata is not a regular starter at the Bernebeu, he is surplus to requirements and Real want to sell him to free up funds to bolster their squad.
Meanwhile De Gea is a key player for Man Utd, the first name on the team sheet and they would struggle to replace him with a player of a similar calibre. He is a brilliant shot stopper, has exemplary command of his area, handles the ball very well and has good distribution. There are few keepers in the world that are on his level. Maybe Manuel Neuer, Thibaut Courtois and Gianluigi Buffon, but that is about it.
Man Utd need to convince him that he can achieve everything he could ever hope to achieve at Old Trafford rather than elsewhere.
The signings they make this summer should cause them to improve, supplementing a defensively strong squad with attacking talent. They are expected to perform far better in the league next season: as you can see Man Utd are joint second favourites to win the Premiership at 3/1, and are also expected to reach the latter stages of the Champions League.
De Gea almost joined Real in 2015 but it fell through and he signed a deal that will take him up to 2019, with the option of a further year, so there is no pressing need to sell him. They could easily afford to offer him a new contract worth £200,000 a week. If he really kicks up a fuss, they can sell him but they should demand at least £65 million. They would never sign Neuer, Courtois or Buffon, while Jan Oblak is unlikely to go anywhere due to Atletico Madrid’s transfer embargo, so it will be hard to find a replacement and they would have to pay over the odds for someone like Gianluigi Donnarumma.
In an ideal world, they would keep De Gea as Mourinho builds his teams up from the back, and the strong and reliable Spaniard is crucial to that.