There comes a time in every top footballer’s career when everything falls into place. It is their time to shine – and right now, there is no player who that phrase applies to more than Manchester United and Spain goalkeeper David De Gea.
Last season he was voted the Manchester United Player of the Season – kind of like Xavi saying he is taller than Iniesta in terms of accolades given the candidates for the award after a dire season for the Red Devils under David Moyes – but nonetheless it showed just how far De Gea had come from the lightweight goalkeeper who arrived from Atletico Madrid and who looked like he would blow over in the tamest of gales. Not ideal in Manchester considering the weather and certainly not in the physical league that is the top flight in England.
De Gea needed to bulk up and fast and despite initially thinking that the way to do so was to steal doughnuts from his local Tescos, the goalkeeping coaches at United swiftly showed him the error of his ways and re-evaluated not only his meals but his entire lifestyle including meal times, sleeping pattern and introducing gym sessions focusing on weights and protein shakes to bulk him up further.
Roll on a couple of seasons and the Spaniard is turning into one of the finest keepers in football.
Pretty convenient given the state of the United defence and not only are regular saves needed on a weekly basis, but world class ones and even saves from spot kicks are becoming a weekly occurrence as well.
Whilst De Gea may well enjoy the acclamation and Twitter thanks from his back four – yep, Luke Shaw has a player he admires far more than ‘toughest opponent’ Victor Moses now after De Gea dug him out of a sticky spot against Everton – it is safe to say Louis van Gaal would probably like his keeper called into action a little bit less. Either way, De Gea’s form for his club over the last couple of seasons has been exemplary.
So much so that he really should have occupied the La Roja number one shirt during the World Cup in Brazil last summer, but Spain being Spain – and San Iker being San Iker, that was never going to be the case.
Despite being (deservedly) dropped for Real Madrid and making a howler in the Champions League final, Vicente Del Bosque stuck with the Spanish equivalent of God during the tournament and was punished heavily for it.
Casillas was dire and anyone who had previously been in the keeper’s corner had to crawl under a rock quicker than Liverpool fans went missing on social media after that slip. Yes, it was humiliating at best. The end of an international career at worst. Well, for anyone other than Casillas.
It may have been understandable had Spain not had a plethora of other top goalkeepers waiting in the wings – like England for example – but they do.
La Roja have an abundance of quality goalkeepers with Kiko Casilla being the latest one to shine domestically, but De Gea is leading the pack – and should have been a shoe-in for the number one shirt post Brazil and going into the Euro 2016 qualifiers considering the only way Spain will qualify for the tournament with Casillas in net is if they were hosting it – but sadly that honour and resulting automatic slot goes to France.
Casillas made yet another booboo against Slovakia – yes Slovakia, who can boast Marek Hamsik and Martin Skrtel as their most famous exports – and who the defending champions should be dispatching with ease. Sadly, that was not the case and having an error prone goalie is always going to place a team on the back foot.
Step forward De Gea. There is simply no way on earth that Casillas should retain the starting spot for the qualifier on Sunday night and even he knows it. The national paper, Marca, who have been staunch supporters of the player for the last decade – not to mention have his wife on their staff- even ran a pole asking readers who should be between the posts come the game.
The verdict was overwhelming. De Gea is the people’s choice for Spain now and has everything ahead of him. Casillas meanwhile is on a decline so rapid it is hard to tell where the bottom is considering every time he seems to hit it, he manages to sink lower.
De Gea is already a star for Manchester United and could well be about to become one for the senior Spain squad – and at 23 years of age, that is a remarkable achievement for any player, let alone a goalkeeper who has his best yet to come. A frightening prospect really. Well, unless you are Manchester United or Spain that is!
Manchester United fans. Just how much do you rate De Gea now? Spain fans. Is it time for him to be in the starting eleven? Let us know your thoughts below or tweet us @LaFootyettes.