David de Gea Quintana was born 7th November 1990, born in the Spanish Capital of Madrid and raised in nearby municipality of Illescas by Father Jose and Mother Marivi.
Very little is known of David’s youth as Jose and Marivi lived a private life with their only child, just that his parents were successful, and he enjoyed the benefits of such an upbringing.
David would start his footballing career aged 10 for a local grassroots side and initially his slight frame and speed leant itself well to an outfield position, but as De Gea grew much taller than his peers, he became the clubs Goalkeeper. It turns out he was pretty good at it too.
David’s then coach Juan Luis Martín contacted several clubs inviting them to watch De Gea in action without much success, and it wasn’t until he contacted Atletico Madrid that he decided a little white lie wouldn’t go a miss. Juan Luis told the Atletico scouting team that De Gea had already been watched by Rayo Vallecano and was on the verge of signing him, Atletico sent a scout, Diego Diaz Garrido, to the very next game and he was given the power by the club to sign him on the spot.
De Gea would make his way through the Atletico youth system and sign his first professional contract in 2008, a year after he’d helped Spain win the u17’s European Championships and place runner up in the u17’s World Cup. He would remain in the youth ranks for a season before being promoted to Atletico B the next season, the reserve side play in Segunda B, the highest level under the Royal Spanish Football Federation, equivalent to The English Football League One.
His first year with Atletico B was so successful De Gea was already attracting interest from other clubs around Spain and Europe, most notable of those was Numancia and Queens Park Rangers, who both wanted to take David on loan. De Gea rejected both approaches in favour of staying with Atletico B. Normally this would be seen as a sign of staunch commitment and resilience, but that was not the case for Atletico Sporting Director Jesus Garcia Pitarch, who forced David to train alone when the deals collapsed.
It would be a twist of fate, as then First Team Coach, Abel Resino, noticed two weeks later that David had been training alone every day and invited him over to train with the Senior Side. Training amongst the likes of Sergio Asenjo, Maxi Rodriguez, Jose Antonio Reyes and Sergio Aguero, De Gea quickly established himself as third choice keeper for the remainder of the season.
It wouldn’t be long before De Gea would see first team action.
September of 2009 saw De Gea promoted to the senior side as Asenjo was selected to represent Spain in that years u20’s World Cup, he would play back up to Roberto for the four weeks between September 24th and October 19th.
Just six days after being called into the squad, De Gea would make his first team debut, replacing an injured Roberto after 27 minutes of a Champions League game versus Porto. Two late goals would seal Atletico fate and would mean an eventual 3rd place finish in the group behind Chelsea and Porto respectively, entering the knockout stages of The Europa League.
With Roberto still injured De Gea would make his La Liga debut just 3 days later against Real Zaragoza, an error saw him concede a penalty early in the game, however, with the composure and confidence of a veteran keeper De Gea saved the penalty kick and Atletico won the game 2-1.
Upon Asenjo return and with Roberto looking likely to be out for the rest of the season, De Gea played a key backup role, competing with Asenjo every step of the way. De Gea crucially would play all eight of Atletico’s Europa League campaign securing the trophy and his first winners medal with a 2-1 victory over Roy Hodgsons Fulham.
De Gea was also became first choice in the domestic campaign too after some costly mistakes by Asenjo, rumours were Sir Alex had flown out to watch De Gea himself after his scouts waxed lyrical about the young kids’ ability, touted as a replacement for a retiring Edwin Van Der Sar. If United hoped to get their man on a free transfer in 2011, those hopes all but vanished when Atletico offered De Gea a contract extension to remain at the club until 2013.
The UEFA Super Cup game saw Atletico face off against Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan, De Gea again saved a Penalty late in the game and Atletico would secure a 2-0 victory as a result and following a man of the match performance versus noisy neighbours Real Madrid, De Gea would receive the plaudits of Spain’s reigning number one Iker Casillas and then Spain manager Vincente Del Bosque as “The future of the national team”
Words that would surely ring in his ears as De Gea lifted the u21’s European Championship with Spain few months later.
David De Devil
Throughout the 2010/11 Season, David de Gea received the attention of a number of clubs, but one was more prevalent than all the others. Manchester United would announce De Gea transfer after Gary Neville’s Testimonial in May of 2011, although this speculation was quashed by David’s representatives in an effort to remove the eyes of the footballing world from De Gea in the run up to Spain’s successful u21s Euro Tournament.
Immediately following the Championships in Denmark, De Gea flew straight in to Manchester for a medical and officially put pen to paper on a £18.9m transfer, a British Record Fee for a Goalkeeper. He would assume the number one shirt from the start of the season, with little or no competition being offered by Tomasz Kuszczak, Anders Lindegaard or Ben Amos. He would make a swift start to the season too, securing The Community Shield with a 3-2 win over derby rivals Manchester City, coming from 2-0 down to win the game. De Gea would keep his first Premier League Clean Sheet at home to Tottenham two weeks later and six days later would save a Robin Van Persie penalty on the way to a now infamous 8-2 Victory over Arsenal. These were solitary highlights in a period described by Sir Alex as “a learning process” for David, several errors would lead to losses in games that United should have won and it all culminated in an historic and devastating 6-1 loss to Manchester City and a 3-2 loss to Blackburn back-to-back. Many media outlets criticised De Gea’s ability to deal with crosses, his lightweight body frame the root cause.
De Gea was defiant when interviewed a week later and prior to being dropped in favour of Lindegaard.
“all keepers make mistakes once in a while and none of us like it when we do. I have every intention of spending many years here at Manchester United. I want to become a great United keeper and I want to earn and deserve the respect I hope to get,”
Lindegaard would play eight consecutive games prior to injury, which saw De Gea return and in stunning form. He kept eight clean sheets in his final 19 games on the way to a second-place finish in the league, a competition they would have won were it not for
“Ageuroooooo, have you ever seen anything like it in your life”
Dog De Gea Are Gone
Over the course of the next six season at United, De Gea would grow both mentally and physically adding weight and muscle to his once criticised frame. He’d be instrumental in United’s 20th Title Victory just a year after finishing 2nd to City. David’s critics had certainly been made to look a little sheepish too, none more so than ex-player and captain Gary Neville.
An error by De Gea had led to Spurs scoring a 93rd minute equaliser and the former Captain didn’t hold back with his criticism.
“You’ve got to learn the hard way and he’s learning in a very unforgiving environment, where he’s judged continuously at the highest level. There’s a theory that he saved Manchester United because he made two or three great saves, but unfortunately that’s a waste of time. He played well yesterday, but playing well for 92-and-a-half minutes and then doing that in the 93rd is a problem at a club like Manchester United.”
Sir Alex was quick to defend De Gea calling all of his critics “Idiots” and that his performance throughout the entire season up to that point had been brilliant, rubber stamped by his performance against Real Madrid in February of 2013.
De Gea form would continue into his third season, although not all results would go United’s way. Sir Alex had retired, and new manager David Moyes struggled to get the team to perform at the highest level expected of a club like United. What stood out through this season was De Gea’s ability to rescue games, United won a number of games they probably would have lost if anyone else was between the sticks, his reflexes and agility would lead to several highlights and double saves rarely seen from a keeper so young.
He’d be awarded for his efforts, being named Players Player and Club Player of The Year and not for the first time. Moyes’ failure to qualify for The Champions league for the first time in 17 years cost him his job. Incoming manager Louis Van Gaal had a lot of work to do to turn around United’s form, it would again be De Gea that remained the one constant
throughout another tough season for The Red Devils. Van Gaal himself calling David a “saving grace” on the way to a 4th place finish, but still a huge 17 points behind Champions Chelsea.
This did not prevent De Gea from being named part of the PFA Team of The Year or shortlisted as PFA Young Player and Overall Player of The Year, losing out Eden Hazard and Harry Kane respectively. He would claim Manchester United’s Players Player of The Year and Club Player of The Year award, the first Goalkeeper to win it in consecutive years.
The Triple Crown
That summer bought renewed speculation over David’s future, with rumours a switch to Real Madrid was just days away from completion and sure enough come deadline day 2015 it looked as though De Gea was to transfer back to the Spanish Capital.
As the minutes ticked down toward the 11pm deadline though, all went quiet and no confirmed transfer was being reported. A little digging later by Sky Sports News found that vital documents that required a signature fell foul of a broken Fax Machine on Real Madrid’s end. My first thought was, Why the hell are they using a Fax Machine? it’s 2015 not 1985, and secondly What must David De Gea be thinking?
The proceeding weeks were a back and forth between Madrid and United, with Real blaming United for holding off until the last minute and United shrugging their shoulders blaming their outdated technology.
De Gea was omitted from the first few weeks of the season, with Van Gaal stating David wasn’t prepared mentally for the challenge. Eleven days later it was revealed Manchester United had negotiated a new four-year deal with David, with the option for a fifth, a bumper wage packet and various other performance bonuses would see De Gea become one of the Leagues highest paid shot stoppers. He was reinstated to the squad, winning his first three games on the bounce before a loss to Arsenal preceded an undefeated streak lasting until December of that year. United struggled for consistency beyond that with Five of their Nine Draws and Eight of their Ten losses that year all coming in the second half of the season, it would see United finish 5th on goal difference behind City, Spurs, Arsenal and surprise League Winners Leicester City.
Despite that De Gea again won Players Player and Club Player of The Year, the first player ever to win it three consecutive years and his performances would also be rewarded with Silverware in the shape of The FA Cup. De Gea would also win Match of The Days Save of The Season for the third time also, completing an unprecedented Triple Triple of Individual Awards, cruelly he was denied his first ever PFA Golden Glove after a 94th minute own goal by Chris Smalling in the last game of the season.
The Jose Years
Another season and another manager, though the feeling was that Jose Mourinho’s imminent arrival was one that will last, De Gea had already seen three different managers and three different backroom teams come and go, perhaps not was he was expecting upon signing for United.
Whilst more uncertainty surrounded the club and its players, most people were certain of one thing and frighteningly it was that De Gea could only get better under Jose’s guidance.
A man famed for “parking the bus” his teams have always upheld staunch defences, with records broken for fewest goals conceded and number of consecutive clean sheets under his management.
The 2016/17 season started well enough and the signs were that Mourinho’s brand of football was going to pay off, three successive wins and two clean sheets prior to the international break saw United top the table.
Football is a game of two halves and if United were brilliant before the break, they were awful after it, managing just one win in the league between September 10th and November 5th, although they did dispatch Northampton and rivals City in The League Cup.
A draw against Burnley prior to their first win in nearly two months, however, would kick start an undefeated streak that would last right up until facing Arsenal on the 7th of May, incredibly they’d lose back to back games to North London teams before drawing with Southampton and beating Palace on the final day.
Despite only five losses all season, it wasn’t enough for United to finish any higher than 6th place, they did claim The League Cup in February defeating Southampton 3-2 and The Europa League win over Ajax would be enough for them to qualify for The Champions League.
Throughout that season it was clear that Jose had stamped his brand of Football all over United and whilst De Gea didn’t win Club Player of The Year this time, he was instrumental in many of the games United should have and probably would have lost without him, keeping an incredible 18 clean sheets in 37 league games.
This season saw United improve massively on the previous four seasons, finishing second behind a rampant Manchester City, De Gea kept eight clean sheets in the opening ten games of the season and finished the year with 115 saves to his name. Whilst the season has ended trophy less, De Gea has again claimed a number of individual awards, He was named in the PFA Team of The Season for a fifth time in six years, Match of The Day’s Save of The Season for a fifth time, Players Player and Club Player of The Year for a record fourth time.
De Gea’s proposed move to Real Madrid now a distant memory, he looks set to sign a new five-year deal and bar a catastrophic drop off in form, David will remain United’s Goalkeeper for a long time to come. United are expected to strengthen in key areas in the summer, none more important in Mourinho’s eyes than at centre back. Depending on who they bring in and of course how quickly they settle in, we could be witness to a record breaking year for De Gea.
David and Goliath
The call for De Gea to be recognised as a future Ballon d’Or winner is a muted one, more so because of a trend that has been created in the last 20 years, that the one who scores the most goals is clearly the best player in the world.
It will take a lot for David to be truly recognised as a Goliath of a game dominated by attacking statistics rather than defensive ones.
The last defender to win the Ballon d’Or was of course Fabio Cannavaro, who led his country to World Cup glory in the same year, the last defender to win the award before him was Franz Beckenbauer in 1976, and the only Goalkeeper ever to win the award was Lev Yashin way back in 1963. Whilst I recognise Lothar Matthias and Matthias Sammer both won the award in the 90’s both were not recognised as out and out defensive players, playing most of their careers in Midfield.
What will it take for a Goalkeeper to win the award again? Well a League Title would be a good starting place, then a Champions League winners medal and perhaps paired with either a European Championship or World Cup win too.
De Gea would have to complete an unprecedented treble for club and country to even make the top five, Manuel Neuer serves as a great example.
Neuer was third place to Messi and Ronaldo in 2014, the same year he’d won The Bundesliga, The German Association Cup and The World Cup with Germany, compared to Ronaldo who lifted The Copa Del Rey and Champions League in the same year.
Do I think De Gea deserves to be amongst the elite players in the world? absolutely.
Can he win The Ballon d’Or? In a word No, not that De Gea can really do anything about it.
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