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.
It’s crunch time for Stoke City under Paul Lambert
The next two months are crucial for the future of Stoke City.
There are only eight games left of the Premier League season and with Manchester City running away with the Premier League title the attention now turns to the race for survival.
Stoke City began the season celebrating their tenth consecutive year as a top-flight club and yet the campaign could ultimately culminate in relegation to the Sky Bet Championship.
The warning signs were there in the summer when star winger Marko Arnautovic forced through a transfer to West Ham United and claimed that the Potters ‘lacked ambition’, something that the club hierarchy strenuously denied before forcing Mark Hughes to be reliant on free transfers and loan signings.
The further departure of club stalwarts such as Jonathan Walters and Glen Whelan was also a loss in the dressing room and behind the scenes, if not necessarily on the pitch.
The campaign actually got off to a promising start as Stoke secured four points from their opening two home fixtures against Arsenal and Manchester United, but the wheels quickly began to fall off.
Hughes had opted to deploy a new look 3-4-3 formation and, despite some early success, it soon became apparent that the Potters did not have the personnel or quality to make the system work.
The sight of Mame Biram Diouf, a striker by trade, stranded as a wingback pretty much summarises the tactical naivety of Hughes and his unwillingness to revert to a back four, despite poor results, saw the club slip into the relegation zone.
Ultimately, it has been Stoke’s inability to defend that has underpinned their demise this season.
At one stage, the Potters had the unenviable record of possessing the worst defensive record of any club in the top flight of European football, whilst only West Ham United have conceded more goals or kept fewer clean sheets in the Premier League this season.
Mark Hughes was dismissed in late January after Stoke City had been knocked out of the FA Cup by fourth-tier Coventry City and were stranded in the Premier League relegation zone.
There is little doubt that the Potters were correct to part ways with the Welshman, although in hindsight the club hierarchy had remained too loyal for too long.
Stoke’s attempt to hire a successor was chaotic, disorganised and became something of a soap opera.
Gary Rowett was the first manager to publically turn down the job after being approached and was swiftly followed by Quique Sánchez Flores, who conducted a swift U-turn within twenty-four hours of reportedly agreeing to leave Espanyol, and Martin O’Neil.
Stoke supporters were eventually left with the uninspiring appointment of Paul Lambert who, quite clearly, was nobodies first choice for the role.
The former Aston Villa and Wolverhampton Wanderers boss has certainly had a positive impact since arriving in the final weeks of January and has undoubtedly made the team more organised and harder to beat.
However, Lambert has overseen just one win in seven fixtures, at a time when the club are desperate for points, despite having been handed a favourable run of fixtures that included Huddersfield Town, Watford, Brighton, Bournemouth, Southampton and Leicester City.
The 48-year-old will need to stimulate a dramatic improvement in results of The Potters are going to have any hope of avoiding the drop.
On paper, the current Stoke City squad consists of a core contingent of proven international players that should have the quality and experience to pull away from the relegation zone.
Jack Butland, who is vying to be England’s first choice goalkeeper, Kurt Zouma, one of the most highly rated young defenders in Europe, Joe Allen, a central midfielder of undoubted quality, and Swiss superstar Xherdan Shaqiri make up the spine of the starting eleven, whilst Moritz Bauer and Badou Ndiaye arrived in January to add further quality.
However, there is an obvious lack of creativity in the current squad and the responsibility for facilitating goal scoring opportunities rests solely on the shoulders of Shaqiri.
In addition to this, Stoke lack a proven goal scorer with Mame Biram Diouf (inconsistent), Peter Crouch (one dimensional) and Saido Berahino (who has yet to score in over two years) the only options at Paul Lambert’s disposal.
This imbalance in the squad has been reflected in recent results. Since Lambert’s arrival in late-January Stoke have lost just once in seven games, against the champions-elect Manchester City, and have kept three clean sheets in the process.
However, in the same period, they have only won once, in Lambert’s first match against Huddersfield Town, and have found the net just five times – three of which were provided by Shaqiri.
It is the lack of creativity and goals that is undermining any shoots of recovery at the Bet365 Stadium.
Everton (H), Arsenal (A), Tottenham (H), West Ham United (A), Burnley (H), Liverpool (A), Crystal Palace (H) and Swansea City (A).
Stoke City have a semi-difficult run of fixtures but there are certainly opportunities to accumulate points over the closing weeks of the season.
Home games against Everton, Crystal Palace and Swansea City are ‘must win’ based on the fact that the Potters have the worst away record in England, having won just once on their travels this campaign, but trips to Olympic Stadium and the Liberty Stadium could provide a chance to rectify that.
Fundamentally, if Stoke can get to the final two games of the season and still be in with a chance of securing safety then they will be relatively pleased. It could all come down to the last day of the season with a mouth-watering fixture against Swansea.
Will They Survive?
Although Paul Lambert has certainly had a positive impact since being appointed in late-January, making the team more organised and harder to beat, it is difficult to see where Stoke City will secure the three or four wins required to guarantee safety.
The Potters have won just six games all season and the lack of creativity throughout the side and the absence of a proven striker leaves you wondering where the goals are going to come from.
There is certainly still hope for Stoke supporters, but Lambert will need to facilitate a dramatic improvement in performances if he is to guide the club to safety.
It will be an achievement if he can get the Potters to the final two games of the season, against Crystal Palace and Swansea City, and still be in with a chance of surviving.
Paul Dummett’s Wales snub will please Newcastle United fans
The Welshman turned down an international call-up this week.
Paul Dummett has been one of the standout players for Newcastle United this season and his performances haven’t passed Ryan Giggs by.
The new Wales National Team manager has admitted that he has spoken to the left-back with a view to a return to the squad. The Chronicle reported the following quotes:
“I had a conversation with Paul Dummett, because he hasn’t been in the last few squads, and he just felt that it wasn’t the right time to come back.
“He wanted to concentrate on his Newcastle career which I have to respect, and we move on.
“He (Dummett) said that he wanted to concentrate on Newcastle’s relegation fight so I have to respect that at the moment. In the future we will wait and see.”
That will be music to the ears of Newcastle supporters and Rafa Benitez, as Dummett has emerged as a key player for the team since his return from injury.
This season in the Premier League, the Magpies have conceded only 13 times in the 12 matches that the 26-year-old has started.
That underlines how effective he has been and his importance to the team’s chances of staying in the top-flight.
Although he may not be the most exciting player to watch, Dummett is very good at carrying out a role for the team and it is no surprise that he has become one of Benitez’s most trusted lieutenants.
The Spanish manager enjoys to coach players that listen and carry out his instructions to the letter and his left-back certainly fits under that description.
A quick look at the stats shows how rounded Dummett is as a defender.
He averages 2.83 ball recoveries, 0.78 blocks and 6.85 clearances per ninety minutes. Meanwhile, he is very good in the air as shown by his aerial duels win rate of 57.41%.
He was once a scapegoat for Newcastle supporters and the focus of anger when things weren’t going well. The reason for that was his lack of technical skill, which would make him stand out on the pitch.
However, that side of his game has developed and he is now serviceable in possession. Dummett isn’t going to be cutting sides open with his attacking threat down the left, but he understands his own limitations and that has seen him improve as a player.
The 26-year-old has been part of Wales squads in the past, but he has only played once for his country and his lack of game-time may be a reason why he stepped away from the international arena.
Last summer, Newcastle issued a statement to explain why Dummett withdrew from the squad for the World Cup qualifier against Serbia, which featured the following quote:
“After a gruelling campaign with the Magpies, in which he played through the pain barrier on several occasions, 25-year-old Dummett is keen to recharge his batteries and spend time with his family and friends in order to ensure he is at peak form and fitness for his hometown team’s return to the Premier League and what promises to be a big campaign for both him and the club.
“He has been supported in his decision by Newcastle boss Rafa Benítez.
“However, Dummett – who has represented his country from youth level all the way to the senior team – has not closed the door on his international career and hopes to represent the Dragons again in the future.”
It is clear that Newcastle is the priority for Dummett, but it is interesting that he refused to close the door on Wales last summer.
A managerial change since then may lead to further opportunities for the left-back and it is easy to see why Giggs has already reached out to him.
The Newcastle full-back has developed into a Premier League calibre player under Benitez and he will offer an upgrade on the options currently in the Wales squad.
For him, as a player, it may be beneficial to play international football and gain experience at the highest level. Although he didn’t agree to come back at this time, it would be a surprise if he doesn’t return to the fold in the near future. Both parties would benefit from that.
Salif Sane is the centre-back Everton must sign in the summer
The Senegal defender has been in fine form for Hannover 96 this season.
Salif Sane may not be a player well known to many fans in England, but this season he has emerged as a superstar in German football.
The 27-year-old has been in incredible form for Hannover 96 this season. According to the stats aggregator, WhoScored, Sane is rated as the second-best player in the Bundesliga, with only Bayern Munich’s James Rodriguez ahead of him.
His form should surely have caught the eye of Everton.
The Toffees have had a torrid time defensively this season.
Ashley Williams has been in awful form and has lost the backing of fans with his recent red card versus Burnley.
Michael Keane has struggled to replicate his Burnley form at Goodison Park.
Phil Jagielka’s age is catching up with him whilst Mason Holgate has been erratic.
The less said about loan signing Eliaquim Mangala the better. With Ramiro Funes Mori sidelined for most of the campaign, Everton have leaked goals.
Sane could be the perfect plug.
The Senegal defender, who came through the ranks at Bordeaux and later Nancy, is exactly what Everton need.
Sane is a no-nonsense defender whose main aim is to keep out goals. Defending is his first priority.
One area of his game where he is imperious is in the air. Not many players beat the 6ft 5 ins powerhouse in an aerial battle.
This season has been a breakthrough campaign for Sane.
This summer he will be in the Senegal squad at the World Cup in Russia, with plenty expected of a side containing the likes of Sadio Mane and Keita Balde Diao.
Sane would join his international colleague Idrissa Gana Gueye at Everton and would arrive more than capable of finally steadying the ship in Everton’s woefully inept defensive unit.
If not Sane, then someone else, but it is fair to say not many players in Everton’s price-range would be able to have the impact the Senegal defender might if given the chance.
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