It now seems clear that David de Gea will be departing Manchester United shortly for Real Madrid – not exactly football’s biggest surprise. As he has blossomed into one of the world’s very best goalkeepers, it has become a matter of if and not when the Spaniard returned to his home country, and that when now appears to be this summer. The question for United now is, what next?
Whilst it is no doubt a blow to lose a player of de Gea’s quality, in my mind it seems unlikely that Louis van Gaal will be hugely worried about replacing the 24-year-old. Impressive shot-stopper though he is, United are in the fortunate position of being able to afford a replacement and having a potential replacement already in their ranks.
Former Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes has been on United’s books since January, after training with the Red Devils following a long-term knee injury, and there are plenty of people touting the three-time Champions League winner as the right player to step into de Gea’s shoes.
Of the 33-year-old’s experience there is little doubt, with 12 years at a star-studded Barcelona side giving the goalkeeper more than his fair share of trophies. In fact it was van Gaal himself who gave Valdes his debut, and there is no doubt that the Dutchman will be seriously considering whether giving the Spaniard the No.1 shirt is the right thing to do.
On many levels this would be a move that makes sense, but van Gaal will also be acutely aware of the fact that Valdes’ powers appeared to wane at the Nou Camp, and having been out of the game for a long time, there is definitely a question mark over whether he still has what it takes to succeed at the highest level.
Were van Gaal to opt against giving the key spot to Valdes, he would almost certainly be looking to tempt Hugo Lloris to Old Trafford. In a list of the goalkeepers ‘available’ in this window, the Frenchman would be neck-and-neck at the top along with Chelsea’s Petr Cech; but given the rivalry between United and the Blues, it seems highly unlikely that Mourinho would allow the Czech international to move up north.
Chelsea’s reluctance to allow Cech to shift to United means that the ‘Lloris to Old Trafford’ bus’ wheels are likely to be very much turning at the moment; and anyone who has watched the French captain’s performances at White Hart Lane over the last few years will have no doubts over his quality. The stark fact of the matter is that right now, Lloris is far too good for Tottenham, and given that he is one of the few French players not currently playing in the Champions League, he will be keen to stake his claim ahead of the European Championships next season.
If United land Lloris, they would arguably have gained a goalkeeper of greater quality than the Spaniard they are almost certainly losing. Without a doubt, they wouldn’t be losing out, and with than in mind, it seems likely that van Gaal will plump for the Frenchman rather than taking a risk on Valdes.