Reports in most newspapers at the moment claim that Manchester United are lining up a deal with Real Madrid that would see David de Gea leave the club with Gareth Bale signing for us.
Adam Crafton, who is a journalist for The Daily Mail, has written several articles on De Gea and has a good insight to player’s past, as well as his potential future, and has answered a few questions on the player. Read part I here where he discusses whether his loyalty to Atletico Madrid makes a difference to his decision and what his family want him to do.
Does it make a difference for De Gea having so many Spanish/Spanish speaking players at the club now?
Yes, although it was good for his character development that there were not too many Hispanic figures around during the first couple of years. Eric Steele recalls how Javier Hernandez was excellent with him off the pitch and Patrice Evra, who speaks Spanish, was a really helpful on-field influence, particularly playing in defence and passing on instructions. David’s English has improved now – it is difficult in front of cameras but he is very comfortable in English at training – and that can only help his game as a goalkeeper. He is very close to Mata and Herrera, although Hernandez is a great friend and he does miss him. Nobody should underestimate how much Hernandez helped De Gea through the tricky periods.
Was he aware of how well supported he was by United fans when all the papers were calling him a flop?
I’m sure he appreciated the support inside Old Trafford at games. I suppose many people will be a little embarrassed by what was written about De Gea in the early days but even the most ardent United supporter must have harboured some doubts. There are no guarantees with potential. I remember I did a podcast about midway through his first season just before United went to Chelsea. Lindegaard was injured and I called for Ben Amos to play ahead of De Gea. Ridiculous looking back. As it transpired, United drew 3-3 at Chelsea and De Gea made the most astonishing sprawling save from a Mata free-kick. It remains the greatest save I’ve seen by a Premier League goalkeeper.
Eric Steele told me: ‘The Chelsea game was the turning point. He had been out of the team. Anders Lindegaard came in and did well, David comes back in at Chelsea and makes this unbelievable save from Mata and from Gary Cahill 30 seconds later. He came off the field and he’d grown another couple of inches. From then on, he could say “Now, now I’ve shown people what I’m about.” That was a huge moment.’
He took criticism from the media – some justified it should be said, he did need to change his eating and lifestyle habits – but he will have been sheltered by Sir Alex Ferguson. Steele added: ‘I never had a doubt. In the first six months, we had the best psychologist in the world working for us: Sir Alex Ferguson. He had a way of protecting David. He had faith and knew he needed time.’
Will the signing of Valdes be a positive thing for him?
De Gea has always had competition. At his school, a chubby boy was picked to play in goal while De Gea played as a striker until the age of 14.
At Atletico, De Gea played catch-up to Everton’s Joel Robles during some of his teenage years. In the first-team, he had to dislodge a new signing in Sergio Asenjo and the experienced Roberto in his break-through campaign. De Gea will not be fearful and will most probably be energised. His performances have improved since Valdes started training in the autumn, it should be said. That may or may not be a coincidence.
To me, it still seems a curious move by Van Gaal. As a first-choice goalkeeper, you want your competitor to be good, but maybe not this good. One well-informed contact in Spain said to me last month: ‘The Valdes signing seems strange. You do not sign him to sit on the bench…unless you are going to sell De Gea.’ United insist that is not their intention – they are planning talks with De Gea’s agent Jorge Mendes over an extension – but Valdes is taking this move seriously. He has bought a car for his family, who are moving to Manchester. He is house-hunting in Wilmslow. He has an excellent relationship with Van Gaal and Frans Hoek. De Gea has some serious competition.
How important is the Spain number 1 jersey to De Gea?
He is not actively seeking a move, nothing has been agreed with Real Madrid but interest from Spain cannot be ignored. What if Real come calling? Can De Gea, who grew up just outside the Spanish capital, really resist such an opportunity?
De Gea is 24-years-old, close to securing the number 1 jersey for the Spanish national team and he could feasibly be Madrid’s first-choice stopper for the next decade. The thought must cross his mind that more trophies could be won in the Spanish capital, that he could achieve legendary status in his homeland. In Spain, many feel that there is an obligation for the first choice goalkeeper of the national team to play for Real Madrid or Barcelona.
Cristiano Ronaldo has taken note of De Gea’s performances. He is thought to rate the Spaniard as the best young goalkeeper in the world and his powers in Madrid are significant. United may also be concerned that Ronaldo shares an agent, Jorge Mendes, with De Gea. He is a friend of United’s but arguably a greater friend of Real Madrid. De Gea’s girlfriend Edurne Garcia Almagro works in television in Madrid – she is representing Spain in the Eurovision this year. You can see why he may be torn as decision time approaches.
They will all respect De Gea’s wishes but he will recognise a difficult choice – a career-defining choice – could be forthcoming. De Gea is now a grown man but that bond with his parents cannot be underestimated. For the Spanish national team, they drive him back and forth to training. His dad watches the training. So for all the influences surrounding the player, this will be a decision that De Gea comes to with his parents.
I don’t want it to sound like I’m dodging the question over whether he will stay but this is where it stands at the moment. United are relaxed, hoping to secure a contract extension but if Real Madrid want a replacement for Iker Casillas, then De Gea tops the list. He needs to see signs of progress at United, both individually and for the collective.
Could he be a United captain in the future? He must be a contender. He will also be reassured by United’s recent spending, underlining their desire to return to the top table of European football. United know an agreement must be reached by the summer to avoid losing De Gea for nothing at all in the summer of 2016. The ball is still in their court. But the clock is ticking.