With speculation about David de Gea’s future growing on a daily basis, we wanted to take the opportunity to shed some light on the so-called ‘Goalkeeper Situation’ at football clubs. Arguably, one of the first things that springs to mind is the way in which the media often seem to be obsessed with this position; this is particularly true in the UK. There might be a number of reasons as to why that is the case and certainly, the simple fact that Britain allegedly does not produce great goalkeepers is a contributing factor. Intriguingly, in most other European leagues there does not seem to be the need to discuss this topic at length.
Vitor Baia, Jerzy Dudek, Victor Valdes, Dida, Julio Cesar; all of these are Champions League-winning goalkeepers with a large collection of medals. The question is as to whether these keepers are true greats of the game. In other words, were these the best options available for the respective clubs at the time? When Inter won a famous treble under Mourinho in 2010, they relied on the services of Julio Cesar, the same goalkeeper who struggled to make an impact at QPR just two years later. Dida was often described as a liability, but Milan still managed to win a host of titles with the Brazilian. Victor Valdes has often been accused of being an average goalkeeper, but his title collection is more than enough to trigger some serious levels of envy.
At the end of last season, Borussia Monchengladbach lost Marc-Andre ter Stegen, one of the club’s greatest homegrown products, to Barcelona. This season, the club achieved its best finish in more than 25 years, whilst ter Stegen spent significant time warming Barcelona’s bench. PSG have just won four French league titles in a row with Salvatore Sirigu, the Italian who was brought in from Palermo for less than €4 million in 2011. The point is, to achieve great things, a club needs a good goalkeeper, but not necessarily one that comes with the hype.
In light of the speculation around de Gea, each party will have a number of questions to answer. For Real Madrid, the main question should be as to whether they actually need the Spaniard to replace Iker Casillas at this stage. In a goalkeeping context, Casillas’ age of 34 should not be a major issue, given that most keepers’ careers continue well beyond that age. In addition to this, the Spanish No 1 is perfectly capable of producing world-class performances that would ensure further titles. However, as Real are a blockbuster club focused on high-profile names rather than winning, signing de Gea from Manchester United would keep the club’s fans entertained during, what looks to be, a rather dull summer.
For Manchester United, the question should be as to how important de Gea really is. There is no doubt that the young Spaniard is a great goalkeeper. In fact, he was voted best goalkeeper in the Premier League this season. Nevertheless, it is equally true that goalkeepers do not necessarily need such spotlight. For United, de Gea’s great performances have led to nothing more than a fourth-place finish in the league, although many would describe that as a success for a club that went on a crazy spending-spree during the previous summer. In addition to this, United have a 33 year-old Victor Valdes waiting on the sidelines, ready to pounce.
Whatever the case might be, the reality is that Manchester United are likely to improve on this season’s Premier League finish. They might even challenge for the title, with or without de Gea. Just like Borussia Monchengladbach, they will improve, with or without de Gea. And just like Milan, they will win the Champions League again, with or without de Gea. Therefore, if the player really wants to leave, the club should not be too worried, as there are plenty of alternatives. At the end of the day, title winning teams never really need the best goalkeeper in the world, just as Barcelona are likely to prove in Berlin on 6th June.