Manchester United’s shock Champions League exit to Sevilla on Tuesday could help to persuade David de Gea to cut ties with the Old Trafford side and finally complete a blockbuster move to Real Madrid.
The goalkeeper, who was on the verge of signing for Los Blancos in 2015 only for a last-minute administrative error to foil the transfer, remains on Madrid’s radar as they weigh up their options going forward.
United’s humiliating elimination by Sevilla is set to precipitate renewed hope in the Spanish capital that the 27-year-old can be persuaded to leave Old Trafford, with the Red Devils's 16-point deficit behind champions-elect Manchester City meaning that the FA Cup is their only realistic hope of success remaining this season.
The shot-stopper won three successive Player of the Year awards for United between 2013 and 2016 as the team’s overall threat waned post-Sir Alex Ferguson, and he is in the running for another this term with his quality in between the sticks not being replicated in other areas of the field.
However, De Gea has largely remained happy with life in Manchester in recent years, having signed a new five-year deal only a few days after his Madrid move collapsed in 2015, and United are expected to do everything in their power to keep him at the club.
They have even made plans to offer De Gea a new deal worth around £275,000 a week , and a renewed fear of Madrid interest could force them to expedite the presentation of the contract.
“If I were them, I would think about another player,” said manager Jose Mourinho recently when asked about Madrid’s interest . “I see him staying here.”
The Spain number one has himself explained recently that he is satisfied with his lot at United, telling the Star on Sunday: “To be honest I am just really happy. I feel like an important player in the dressing room. I am one of the oldest in the team. It makes me happy to see the younger players coming through - and trying to make United big.”
But the European champions are aware that De Gea has been frustrated by United’s lack of success on the field over the last five years too, and their latest continental failure is considered by some in the Spanish capital to be their best hope of making a move.
While Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane is a big fan of current number one Keylor Navas, who kept goal in their back-to-back Champions League triumphs in 2016 and 2017, the French coach is believed to be ready to give the nod for a goalkeeping addition if somebody of De Gea’s quality becomes available.
And United legend Paul Scholes recently admitted to Goal that he could understand the goalkeeper wanting to sign for Real, especially given their Champions League pedigree.
“He’s obviously showing he’s the best goalkeeper in the world and if Madrid want him you can understand David wanting to go there, as much as we don’t want him to.
“We can understand he’s from Madrid and would be playing for a team that would be challenging for the Champions League season after season.”
And, as United stare down the barrel of the fallout from their elimination to Sevilla, the need to keep De Gea away from Madrid’s clutches is likely to be every bit as important as making outfield additions as they look to plan for a more successful season ahead in 2018-19.