All eyes were on David de Gea ahead of this World Cup, with speculation rife that this would be the summer that he would finally make his hotly anticipated move to Real Madrid.
With just two years remaining on his current deal, the one he signed after his transfer to the Bernabeu broke down at the last minute in 2015, Manchester United are under pressure again. His value would decline massively next summer, with just a season remaining on his contract, so decisions need to be made.
News that Julen Lopetegui had agreed to be the next Real Madrid manager only increased the panic among United fans. He would spend the summer with De Gea as the manager of Spain, putting in the work to convince him to play for him in La Liga the following season.
Lopetegui, who was a goalkeeper himself in his playing days, has to know how fickle Real Madrid can be. If he can’t prove to be immediately successful, he will be shown the door. Having a goalkeeper of De Gea’s quality would likely give Lopetegui the start he needed.
However, Lopetegui infuriated the Spanish FA after his future role at Real Madrid was announced days before the World Cup began. They made the bold decision to sack him after FA chief Luis Rubiales was informed of the manager’s decision just five minutes before it was announced to the world.
Of course, Lopetegui’s absence from Russia won’t mean that De Gea isn’t still keen to be reunited with his former manager, who led him to U-21 Euro success in 2013, but at least he hasn’t been in his ear all summer.
Another reason for United fans to feel confident over De Gea staying put is the fact he hardly dazzled in the World Cup. He had a nightmare in the opening game against Portugal, fumbling a tame shot from Cristiano Ronaldo, and did little to impress in the games that followed.
In fact, De Gea made just one save over the course of the tournament, with Spain conceding six goals on their way to being knocked out by Russia on penalties. He got a glove to one attempt but otherwise was well beaten.
Had De Gea enjoyed a brilliant tournament, playing out of his skin and winning the World Cup, Real Madrid would likely have done everything they could to persuade him. They are like a spoilt kid always wanting the latest toy and De Gea would have been hugely desirable if he had stolen the show for Spain.
However, he was destroyed by the press in his homeland following that game against Portugal so, regardless of his talent, he may not be as high up on Real Madrid’s shopping list this summer.
Following Spain’s defeat against Russia, United teammate Ander Herrera took to Instagram to give a clue about De Gea’s future. “Come quickly to Manchester United,” he said. “We have big things to achieve ahead.”
De Gea himself was active on social media giving hope to United fans. Last Friday marked the seventh anniversary of him signing for the club from Atletico Madrid. “Proud to be a part of this great family,” was De Gea’s response.
The goalkeeper is adored in Manchester and the press never have a bad word to say about him in England. Even if Real Madrid are keen to lure him, De Gea may well have his own reservations. Why would he leave a club where he is worshipped to play for fans who have even booed and jeered Cristiano Ronaldo in the past, after all he has achieved for their club?
Still, the transfer window closing with him still in Manchester isn’t enough. United need to offer him whatever he wants and sign him up to a new contract and have a testimonial at Old Trafford in a few years to look forward to.