Football

Does Latest New Contract Signal The Limits Of David De Gea's Ambition?

Does Latest New Contract Signal The Limits Of David De Gea's Ambition?

After a difficult couple of weeks (in what have been an uncomfortable number of years) for Manchester United, reports in today's Times that David De Gea is set to sign a contract extension with the club he joined in 2011 will offer some necessary respite.

If one were in need of reminding what the Spaniard brings to an increasingly misshapen, under-performing United side, two outstanding saves against Sevilla in Wednesday's Champions League clash all but kept Jose Mourinho's team in contention ahead of the return leg.

Despite being regularly criticised, a selection of players within the squad look capable of demonstrating a world-class performance. Yet, it is only De Gea who delivers upon such expectations with regularity.

Perhaps the only player still present from Ferguson-era that has actually improved since the departure of the Scot, this latest contract will likely bring De Gea's years of service to the club beyond the decade mark; a scenario that few watching the young De Gea of 2011 would have thought at all possible.

When he arrived in 2011, 20-years-old, waif-like, with little or none of the physical capabilities that one would expect of a Premier League goalkeeper, comparisons with his most clear contemporary in the league reflected poorly on a player that had claimed a Europa League winners medal with Atletico Madrid.

David De Gea

With a few more years, appearances and kilos on De Gea, in 2011, Manchester City's Joe Hart appeared to possess all of De Gea's best traits, and the physicality to match.

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A season that would be defined by the slimmest of margins, City's eight goal advantage over second-placed United came with a caveat; that 6-1 win at Old Trafford in October.

With none of United's team coming out of that game with much to shout about, the Spaniard looked particularly shaky as City's dominance began to tell.

Compared to the handle De Gea would later have in stemming such potential onslaughts, on that day, with United down to 10 men for most of the game, the Spaniard looked lost; the fifth and sixth goals from David Silva and Edin Dzeko particularly highlighting his flaws.

Over the following seven years, his development has been steady and assured. With over 300 games played for United, and 25 appearances for Spain, De Gea is unquestionably placed alongside the best goalkeepers of his generation; a curious twist of fate that has worked to the detriment of Hart.

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Although reports of a new contract often serve the selling club in terms of compelling a player's suitors to part with a bigger transfer fee, if it is taken as a legitimate statement of De Gea's intent to remain a Manchester United player, how is this to be understood from the Spaniard's point of view?

For United, the benefits are clear; there is no goalkeeper available that could likely offer - let alone guarantee - an improvement on De Gea. Having been named in the PFA's Team of the Year on four occassions across his seven seasons in England, the Premier League record for such recognition is Steven Gerrard's eight appearances - hardly an impossible target as things stand.

For De Gea, the advantages of staying with United are less clear cut. Having been publicly coveted by Real Madrid, the possibility of such a move has tempted lesser players than him.

Financially therefore, there is no question that a move elsewhere would work in De Gea's favour; Real would certainly have little issue matching De Gea's apparent new weekly-wage of £220,000.

From a personal point of view, De Gea has - publicly, at least - appeared to have little trouble settling in Manchester. Although the extent of inter-club relationships between Spaniards in the Manchester area is unclear, at United alone, De Gea is not short of familiar faces and voices.

Professionally, he has enjoyed reasonable success with United. With every domestic honour won, the absence of a Champions League medal could, theoretically, still be achieved. While the club continue to struggle with the loss of Ferguson, there is still a feeling that a radical overhaul may not actually be necessary.

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David De Gea

Surrounded by players one would consider capable of reaching such heights, the acquisition of a few more, under the correct managerial structure, hardly leave the prospect of European success looking a distant dream.

Yet, De Gea's chances of reaching such a summit would naturally be improved with a return to Spain. So, in a comfortable position though he unquestionably is, why is De Gea, unlike say Cristiano Ronaldo, Luis Suarez or Cesc Fabregas, not more adamant to seal a move away from the Premier League to one of Europe's elite clubs?

While his determination to reach this point alone has shown he is scarcely lacking ambition, David De Gea may reasonably be said to possess an ego that welcomes the challenge of being his side's outstanding player.

In the darkest period of the post-Ferguson years, it was De Gea that claimed United's own Player of the Year award for three successive seasons. The only United 'keeper to claim the award since it's official inception for the 1987/88 season, only Cristiano Ronaldo has won the award as many times as the Spaniard.

Although he is not a 'star' in the manner that his teammate Paul Pogba inhabits such status, he is unquestionably regarded as United's greatest talent. In a footballing era where slow and stable progress is rarely enough to retain the services of a club's biggest talents, De Gea's decision to stay could be considered admirable - even if the rewards for such loyalty are coming in such abundance.

For now, it will be seen as a great coup for United that they could persuade De Gea to remain where he is despite interest from elsewhere. Given that he feasibly could have ten more years left at this level, time is on his side. Without any significant upturn in form from the team generally, Dave could quickly tire of saving a team that is slowly but surely dropping further from the standard he is setting.

See Also: Quiz: Name Each 'David' To Have Won A Premier League Medal

 

Arthur James O'Dea

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