David De Gea is leaving Manchester United for Real Madrid.
Almost surely this summer, but possibly even next summer or some summer in the future. But he is going there.
United failed to extend De Gea’s contract, and the best goalkeeper in England only has one year left on his deal. As such, the player now holds most of the leverage, and Madrid has made its interest clear. Manchester United fancies itself as the biggest club in the world, and it may be so — except when the other biggest club in the world wants one of United’s players.
When that happens, there will only be one winner. Real Madrid, practically without exception, gets what it wants.
At one point, it seemed De Gea was set to stay at United this season. But that was before an uncharacteristic cock-up cost his side a goal against Paris Saint-Germain, leading Louis van Gaal to imply that the Spaniard’s head was gone.
A case can be made that playing behind a central defensive duo of Phil Jones and Daley Blind would be enough to drive any man mad, but van Gaal seems to disagree.
As a result, De Gea is now probably going to Madrid by the end of the week.
De Gea’s once biggest obstacle — Iker Casillas, the man he intends to replace for both Madrid and the Spanish national team — has been removed. It would have been hard enough coping with the pressure of replacing a club legend like Casillas, but it’d be that much harder if the legend was still in the dressing room, looking over your shoulder and giving you the silent treatment.
Kiko Casilla came in as a one-letter-off replacement, but neither he nor the perfectly capable Keylor Navas are in De Gea’s class. Both are no doubt aware that they are mere placeholders until Madrid can get its hands on the real thing.
Not to be outdone, United matched Madrid’s savvy move of signing a goalkeeper nowhere good to enough to provide real competition for De Gea by adding Sergio Romero. If that wasn’t bad enough, van Gaal managed to fall out with Víctor Valdés for good measure.
A deal for Jasper Cillessen is supposedly in place if De Gea leaves — yet another reminder that van Gaal’s preferred scouting method is scrolling through his phone contacts.
Having apparently resigned itself to losing De Gea, United seems committed to getting more than just a few million back in return.
(Summer transfers rumors are, as a rule, an endless circle of utter shit, but one this prevalent means someone involved is squealing.)
For his part, Ramos wants to leave and has taken a position of “United or bust,” to which Madrid president Florentino Pérez reportedly responded: “Bust.” The bust in this case coming in the form of a nice, fat new contract. Bridges had appeared to be burned between the two men, but do you know what tends to build new bridges? Shit tons of money.
Even the prospect of getting a world class defender in exchange has not warmed all United fans to the idea of losing their star ‘keeper. Some are naturally upset — outrage is the permanent disposition of most sports fans — but in truth, it is hard to begrudge Big Dave his desired move.
De Gea is, of course, a Madrid native, having come through the academy at Real’s crosstown rival Atlético Madrid. (No matter his past allegiances, the allure of the mighty Real Madrid is hard to resist, particularly for a local.) His popstar girlfriend lives in the Spanish capital, as does his family.
On top of all that, there are some nasty stories going around that Madrid is a nicer place to live than Manchester.
De Gea’s dream move does not come without its potential banana skins, of course. Madrid’s new manager is a fraud, and its president is a meddling idiot who will most likely find a way to imbalance the team even further this summer with ill-advised superstar signings. And, though Reds have sung David De Gea’s name with gusto every week both home and away, the Bernabeu crowd is, notoriously, the worst.
So it’s not all sunshine and rainbows awaiting De Gea as he returns to his home city, but it still seems a good bet for him to take.
Now all that stands in his way are the small matters of his current employers trying to sign the captain of his future team, and some haggling over tens of millions of dollars between two proud superclubs.
Here’s a timeline of the protracted goodbye:
August 2014: United starts the season without tying De Gea to a new contract, setting the stage for months of speculation and uncertainty.
January 2015: After persistent whispers in the press, De Gea’s agent publicly hints that the ‘keeper could leave.
January 2015: United signs Víctor Valdés, reportedly as an eventual replacement for De Gea. That doesn’t work out too well in the end.
April 2015: United increases its contract offer to De Gea to a reported 200,000 pounds per week.
June 2015: United digs its heels in, and lets it be known that De Gea will not not be allowed to leave for anything else than a world record fee.
June 2015: News emerges that Sergio Ramos is open to leaving Madrid, and United pounces on the opportunity: If you want our wantaway ‘keeper, then we’ll have your wantaway defender. Ramos flirts back.
July 2015: San Iker gets the boot.
July 2015: Ramos is told that he won’t be sold.
July 2015: Since Madrid refuses to play ball over Ramos, it looks like De Gea is was set to stay.
July 2015: De Gea has a minor fuck-up in a friendly, van Gaal blames it on the transfer uncertainty, and tells the board to get rid.
August 2015: With Manchester United starting its season on Saturday, it’s time for Real Madrid to shit or get off the pot.