The rumours that Manchester United goalkeeper David De Gea could be heading for the exit this summer are refusing to desist. And, unfortunately for the red half of Manchester, those rumours gained considerable weight over the weekend, with United manager Louis Van Gaal dropping the biggest hint yet that the young Spaniard could be headed back to his homeland. “It is not easy to choose between two great clubs. We would be very happy if he stays,” the Dutchman said in a press conference, before adding, “David De Gea shall not leave us so easily because we are a great club and he wants to participate. He is still behind Casillas but now a Spanish club is coming,”. The Spanish club in question are, of course, Real Madrid and, with the lure of the Bernabeu appearing increasingly hard to resist for the 24 year-old, one question remains on the lips of Reds fans – who would replace him? The Boot Room considers 10 possible men to fill De Gea’s boots at Old Trafford.
Manuel Neuer – Bayern Munich – 29 years old
For a club the size and stature of Manchester United, only the best should be considered when seeking purchases and, in the goalkeeping game at least, they don’t come bigger or better than this German giant. The last 18 months have cemented Neuer’s reputation as the best goalkeeper in the modern game, with the 29 year-old winning the FIFA World Cup Golden Glove as part of a triumphant Germany squad at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and coming a respectable 3rd place in the most recent vote for the Ballon D’Or behind Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, who finished first and second, respectively. The likelihood of Neuer making the move to England is, however, questionable. Having worked hard to earn a place in the hearts of the FC Bayern faithful following his transfer from rivals Schalke 04 in 2011, the three-time Bundesliga winner is unlikely to consider a move away from Munich lightly and, with the possibility of yet more silverware under Pep Guardiola, the chances of seeing this world-class star in the Premier League next season are slim at best.
Petr Cech – Chelsea – 32 years old
Rumours have been rife that Czech Republic international Cech is keen for a move away from United’s Premier League rivals Chelsea, having spent the majority of this season playing second fiddle to Thibaut Courtois. With Arsenal also in the frame to sign the 32 year-old, United would be sure of a safe pair of hands if they brought him to Old Trafford this summer. He is often credited as being part of a vital spine on which the trophy-laden Chelsea teams of the last decade have been built, alongside the likes of John Terry, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba. In Cech, the Red Devils would be buying someone who knows what it takes to win and, with no less than four Premier League titles, four FA Cups and a Champions League title to his name, he possesses exactly the kind of experience that is needed in the dressing room at Old Trafford.
Hugo Lloris – Tottenham – 28 years old
When discussing the cream of the Premier League crop in terms of goalkeepers, France captain and Tottenham Hotspur number 1 Lloris is definitely always part of the conversation. He has most definitely lived up to his reputation as one of the world’s best since moving to North London from Lyon for €10 million in 2012 and is rightly considered one of the world’s best between the sticks. Lloris himself stated at the time of his transfer that the possibility of Champions League football was a major factor in his decision to head to White Hart Lane but, with this appearing to be far from a regular occurrence for Spurs, it’s likely that the lure of European football as part of a resurgent Man Utd side could prove too strong for the Frenchman, if an offer were to come his way. A potential stumbling block, however, could be the notoriously robust Tottenham board room and chairman Daniel Levy, who are well known for driving a hard bargain in the transfer market. If United want Lloris, you can be sure they’ll have to pay a premium to secure his services.
Fraser Forster – Southampton – 27 years old
Southampton have surprised many this season, mounting a serious challenge for the Champions League places this season, only to fall short in the final stages of the season. Despite losing many of their high profile players last summer, Koeman and co have been one of the most in-form teams in the Premier League this season and goalkeeper Forster has been a vital part of that. Having built a reputation as a fantastic shot-stopper during a four-year spell at Scottish outfit Celtic, Forster has experience playing at the highest level in terms of club football. Following a particularly heroic display against Catalan giants FC Barcelona in the Champions League for Celtic in 2012, in which his side won 2-1, the England international earned the nickname ‘La Gran Muralla’ (The Great Wall) from the Spanish media. His impressive performances have continued in the Premier League with Saints and few doubt he would have the temperament and ability to make the number 1 jersey his own at United. Unfortunately, he is presently in the process of recovering from a broken knee cap and the recuperation could be a lengthly one. Patience could be well rewarded if Van Gaal did bring Forster to the North West, however, considering he was top of the table for clean sheets in the Premier League at the time he suffered the injury.
Asmir Begovic – Stoke – 27 years old
Stoke City stopper Begovic is no stranger to being linked with moves to a bigger club, having been rumoured to be on the verge of signing for Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal in the past. The Bosnian international has had a somewhat varied route to his current home at the Britannia Stadium, with a playing career that has taken him from Canada to Yeovil, via Belgium. He has been a solid and safe pair of hands between the sticks for The Potters since signing for them in the January transfer window of 2010 for £3.25 million but perhaps his most memorable moment came when, in a game against Southampton in November 2013, Begovic scored straight from a kick out after only 13 seconds. At only 27 years old, there’s no doubt he has years left at the top and this could be a tempting reason for Man Utd to splash the cash and bring him in. That, in addition to his considerable ability, would make Begovic a good addition to any squad.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen – Barcelona – 23 years old
Despite over 100 appearances for German giants Borussia Mönchengladbach following his senior debut in 2011, this 23 year-old Germany international will only have come on to many people’s radars following his move to current La Liga champions FC Barcelona in May 2014. He, along with fellow young starlet Marco Reus, helped Mönchengladbach mount an unlikely title challenge in the Bundesliga in 2012 and this, along with numerous other stand-out performances, helped secured him the move to Spain. Despite such stellar performances, however, ter Stegen has found himself part of a somewhat experimental approach to goalkeeping at Camp Nou, with manager Luis Enrique choosing to use ter Stegen as first choice in Champions League games only, with Chilean goalkeeper and star of the 2014 World Cup Claudio Bravo being preferred in goal for the Catalans’ La Liga campaign. The young German has, none-the-less, made the most of the opportunity and turned in a number of outstanding performances to help his side reach the upcoming Champions League Final in Berlin on 6th June. Many will be wondering, however, if a ‘keeper of such ability would be wondering to play a similar role next season and, with the potential offer of first team football at United on the table, there’s no doubt a move to Old Trafford would be tempting for the youngster.
Simone Scuffet – Udinese – 18 years old
If you’re not a close follower of Serie A, the chances are this is the first you will have heard of the young Italian. Having made his senior debut for Udinese at age 17 in February of 2014, Scuffet is a name on everyone’s lips at the moment and, with the likelihood that legendary ‘keeper Gianluigi Buffon’s time at the top is growing evermore limited, the search for a reliable Italian successor is on. Scuffet has featured in numerous ‘players to watch’ countdowns over the past year and, while this is no guarantee of quality, there’s no doubt that the excitement surrounding this youngster is palpable. A move to a team the size of Man Utd may be too early this summer for the now 18 year-old but, none-the-less, he’s a name for the future.
Samir Handanovic – Inter Milan – 30 years old
Staying is Serie A for a moment, Slovenia international Handanovic has been one of the few positives in an Inter side that has struggled for success in the post-Mourinho era. He has been an ever-present between the sticks at the San Siro, racking up an impressive 104 appearances for the Milan outfit since arriving there in 2012. He has also earned a place in the Serie A team of the year no less than twice, once with his current club in 2013, and once following an impressive season for Serie A rivals Udinese in 2011 in which he equalled the all-time record for penalty saves in Italy’s top division. United would be wise to consider a move for the 30 year-old, with his arrival ensuring reliability and experience from the start.
Jasper Cillessen – Ajax – 26 years old
Along with Petr Cech, this young Dutch stopper has been one of the more widely-tipped options for United should their current number one head for the exit. Since signing for Dutch giants Ajax in 2011, Cillessen has made the goalkeeper position his own and is no doubt a tempting option for compatriot Van Gaal. Having been a part of the Netherlands squad who reached third place in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and having secured no less than 3 Eredivisie titles in his short time in Amsterdam, the 26 year-old has experience of playing at the highest level and of winning trophies. While a move to United would represent a huge step up in pressure and expectation, Cillessen is yet to display any signs that he is anything but capable of handling such demands.
Victor Valdes – Manchester United – 33 years old
33 year-old Valdes is, of course, already the second choice ‘keeper at Old Trafford, having joined the Red Devils in January of this year. Using the opportunity to train with compatriot De Gea as part of his rehabilitation from a cruciate ligament injury suffered in March of 2014, Valdes has only just made his first team debut for United, replacing De Gea for the final 16 minutes of their 1-1 draw with Arsenal on Sunday. Like in the cases of Cech and Cillessen, using Valdes as a replacement for De Gea would guarantee United a winner between the sticks. He was, of course, the man in goal in the famous FC Barcelona sides that won so much silverware under Pep Guardiola, with no less than six La Liga and three Champions League titles to his name. On an individual note, Valdes has won La Liga Goalkeeper of the Year in 2010 and then again in 2011.
These are, of course, just a few of the possible names that could replace David De Gea, should he chose to make the move to Real Madrid in the summer. Whether the move will come to fruition and who would replace the Spaniard in that event are both issues up for debate, but what is clear is that Man Utd cannot afford to get this decision wrong. De Gea has been perhaps the most important player in restoring some pride to the United faithful this season and replacing him will prove difficult.
What will, no doubt, be playing on the minds of some United fans is the fact that this is an all-too familiar position for them. Following the exit of Great Dane and club legend Peter Schmeichel in 1999, the then-Treble winners struggled to replace a man so vital to their success. It could be argued that a truly suitable replacement wasn’t found for an agonising six years, when they eventually tempted Dutch stalwart Edwin Van Der Sar from Fulham in 2005. Those in power at Old Trafford will be anxious to avoid history repeating itself and the flops that filled that six year abyss, with the likes of Massimo Taibi and Mark Bosnich failing to settle into life in Manchester. Whoever comes in the event of De Gea’s leaving, they will, like any new signing at United, be expected to start strong and provide performances of the highest quality.
There’s no doubt any of our suggested choices could do it, but do you have a better suggestion? If so, let us know in the comments.