EXCLUSIVE: The Spain international remains unconvinced over whether or not he should sign a contract extension or push for a move away from Old Trafford
By Duncan Castles
David De Gea’s agent is to hold talks with Manchester United this week about the goalkeeper’s future at the club.
The Premier League side has offered a lucrative contract extension to the Spain international, yet he is understood to remain unconvinced that his career will be best served by accepting it.
Real Madrid regard De Gea as an obvious successor to Iker Casillas and, with United having allowed their player of the season’s contract to run down to its final year, the Liga club hold a strong bargaining position.
A couple of other factors are also thought to be part of De Gea’s decision over whether to remain at Old Trafford or leave this summer.
Firstly, the Spaniard has been left unimpressed by aspects of Louis van Gaal’s management in the Dutchman’s first campaign at the club.
Van Gaal’s lack of confidence in De Gea’s abilities saw him ask United to sign an alternative first-team goalkeeper in last summer’s transfer market. Although it proved impossible to secure his preferred option for the position, the manager is also understood to have asked his new club to hold off on formally offering De Gea a new contract until he’d decided on the Spaniard’s long-term suitability within his system.
Although De Gea went on to deliver arguably his best ever campaign in a United shirt – proving instrumental in rescuing Van Gaal’s pursuit of Champions League qualification and ending it as the only United player named by his fellow professionals in the PFA Team of the Year – he is said to have been left bemused by a series of lukewarm public comments from his manager.
A man of the match performance in December’s critical away win at Southampton saw Van Gaal downplay De Gea’s contribution. “What do you think I have to answer now?” he said. “He stopped three balls, I think. I think three in total. Is that normal or not? Is that exceptional?”
In February, shortly after handing former Barcelona No.1 Victor Valdes a lucrative 18-month contract, United’s manager again pointedly avoided offering De Gea praise following a run of exceptional games. “I think he doesn’t save many points because he’s my goalkeeper – his obligation is to hold balls. You are thinking that is an exception. For other goalkeepers it’s not like that.”
Last week Van Gaal talked openly about the possibility of losing the 24-year-old, stating that he hoped De Gea would agree a new deal but that if he didn’t “we shall already know who shall be the next goalkeeper. We also have a list of goalkeepers who can replace him because we have to be organised always.”
Van Gaal is conscious that a transfer to Madrid would further De Gea’s ambition to become Spain’s first-choice goalkeeper, while the return to his home city would allow him to spend more time with his family and Madrid-based girlfriend.
“A transfer is a process involving a player, a club and his present club,” said Van Gaal on Sunday. “He has to choose. It is not easy to choose between two great clubs. We would be very happy if he stays. Of course he is Spanish and his girlfriend is Spanish and he can go to another great club, so it is difficult for him to decide.
“I don’t think I can persuade him because he knows everything that he has at Manchester United at this moment. I don’t have to say anything for the benefit of Manchester United because he can feel everything. The crowd has been unbelievable. You have seen that reaction here. It has been unbelievable, for the team and for him individually. When he is going he is losing that because here he has a lot of credits.”
Another factor that could influence De Gea’s decision is that United’s cause has not been helped by Van Gaal’s idiosyncratic treatment of some of the club’s other Spanish-speaking footballers.
His handling of record signing Angel Di Maria and previously free-scoring striker Radamel Falcao has angered agent Jorge Mendes, who took the uncharacteristic step of unfavourably comparing Van Gaal’s management to Sir Alex Ferguson’s in a rare interview earlier this year. Mendes also represents De Gea.