David de Gea’s stock has plummeted over the last three years and the latest snub has put the former Atletico Madrid goalkeeper’s career at a crossroads. Going into the 2018 World Cup, it looked like Spain had finally found their heir to Iker Casillas but a disastrous tournament was largely blamed on the Manchester United goalkeeper.
De Gea had possibly his best individual campaign leading up to the tournament having won the Golden Glove domestically as well as being named in the PFA Team of the Year for the third consecutive season.
But as his Spain side took to the fields in Russia, a remarkable string of mistakes had caretaker manager Fernando Hierro contemplating whether to drop the 30-year-old. And that was at a time where he was largely recognised as the best in his position.
So, how did we get here? Two indifferent campaigns under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer followed for the goalkeeper and Dean Henderson, who had returned from a loan at Shrewsbury town when De Gea featured in the World Cup, is now the Norwegian manager’s first choice.
De Gea was given the nod ahead of Henderson for the Europa League final defeat to Villareal but it was also the Spaniard who missed the decisive spot-kick. Putting any blame on a goalkeeper for missing a penalty is unfair, but his fall from grace was further highlighted by the fact he failed to save any of the 11 penalties faced that evening.
Luis Enrique praised De Gea after a man-of-the-match performance against Germany at the beginning of the last campaign, hinting that despite his troubles at club level, De Gea could find comfort in being the trusted first choice for La Roja.
“With the game he’s played we should be saying what a great goalkeeper we have,” Enrique said in September last year according to Marca. “We monitor him exhaustively, but he and Kepa are in the news if they make a mistake. They’re used to it.”
De Gea only featured three more times for Spain, before being dropped in favour of Athletic Club shot-stopper Unai Simon. The 24-year-old has been preferred to De Gea ever since and the Manchester United goalkeeper is yet to appear for his country this year.
If a decision wasn’t clear before this summer’s European Championships, it certainly is now. Simon has played both of their opening two games and had extended De Gea’s run of non-starts to 10 games.
With still two years remaining on a £375,000-per-week contract, Manchester United will find it hard to sell their highest earner. A decision, however, needs to be made on his future. It is believed that he is not willing to go into the next campaign as Henderson’s understudy and will seek a move that’s the case.
De Gea will remain a popular figure at Old Trafford, regardless of the outcome this summer, and one could argue that he peaked too soon.