Every week at The Center Circle, we are highlighting a different player in a feature we call “On the Spot”. We’ll take a look at superstars, underrated gems, aging veterans, and young unknowns who should be known. We’ll peruse their club and international careers, taking note of their teams, statistics, and highlight reels. We’ll illuminate their strengths and weaknesses and comment on their personalities and reputations. It will be some fun. If there is anyone you want to see “On the Spot”, feel free to comment below.

David De Gea

David De Gea celebrates

Getty Images

After struggling during his first two years in the Premier League, 24-year-old David De Gea has now emerged as arguably the best goalkeeper in the league. The Spanish keeper has proven to be Manchester United’s saving grace for most of this season and has earned nominations for the league’s Young Player of the Year and Player of the Year awards for his work. With rumors of a possible summer move to Real Madrid increasing in frequency, United fans will be worried about keeping their star man at Old Trafford for the years to come.

Spanish Start

David De Gea and Atletico

Atlético Madrid was the first team to give a young De Gea a chance in their academy system. At 13 years old, the young keeper signed his first contract with the club and after just four years, the Spanish giants signed De Gea to his first ever professional contract. Still just a teenager, De Gea spent the 2008-09 campaign in the second tier of Spanish soccer with Atlético’s reserve team. The new keeper quickly established himself as the team’s starter and started 35 times in his debut season.

After a rumored disagreement between De Gea and the club about possible loan moves, he was forced to train away from his teammates. However, this would end up being a blessing in disguise as the first team manager, Abel Resino, was impressed by De Gea’s performance in his individual training and called him up to the first team where he would serve as the third-string keeper. The long-awaited debut for De Gea finally came in 2009. After an injury to the team’s first-choice keeper, De Gea stepped on the field for the first time in the club’s Champions League qualifying match against Porto. Despite a rocky beginning to his first team career, Atlético did not register a league win until De Gea’s fourth start, 2009-10 ended with a Europa League title and the 19-year-old as the starting keeper for the club.

The start of 2010-11 came with more silverware for the young keeper as the club defeated Inter Milan to claim the UEFA Super Cup. This season would prove to be De Gea’s grand introduction to the world. An amazing 11-save clean sheet performance against Real Madrid in a massive derby match convinced many Spanish journalists that De Gea was being groomed as Iker Casillas’ national team replacement, as well as the heir to Real Madrid’s legendary number one shirt. De Gea would play every game for Atlético in their La Liga campaign and helped the team to a seventh-place finish at just 20 years of age.

A Big Move

Man U's De Gea

Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United won the race to sign Atlético’s hot prospect in the summer of 2011. With the retirement of legendary Dutch keeper Edwin Van Der Sar, the door was wide open for De Gea to step right into the starting spot. United fans were used to nothing but the best in between the pipes. In the last 15 years, Old Trafford was the home for two of the greatest keepers in history in Van Der Sar and the Danish legend Peter Schmeichel. This led to close to unrealistic expectations for the incoming 20-year-old in his first ever season in the physical Premier League. In the 2011-12 season, De Gea made 29 league appearances and was able to keep 13 clean sheets. Despite impressive displays against Chelsea and Everton, many fans were hesitant to dub De Gea the club’s goalkeeper of the future. A shocking 5-1 home defeat to Manchester City led many to question whether they young Spaniard could cope with the toughness and size of the Premier League.

The following year, De Gea competed for the starting spot with Anders Lindegaard. The Spaniard endeared himself to United fans in December’s edition of the Manchester Derby helping the team to an impressive 3-2 victory at the Etihad. This was De Gea’s first victory over City and earned him the number one spot for the remainder of the season. The keeper only managed 11 clean sheets in his 28 league appearances, but that was enough to earn United an unprecedented 20th Premier League title in Sir Alex Ferguson’s final year with the club.

The transition to life under David Moyes was difficult for everyone at United. Despite starting the year with a Community Shield victory, the season soon turned sour. A disappointing display in the League Cup, where De Gea was at fault for a late goal in the team’s eventual elimination paired with a far from impressive Champions League run, led many United fans to ask for Moyes’ head. Despite the team’s struggles, De Gea was still able to keep 12 clean sheets, his third straight season with at least 10, and the Spaniard started all but one match for United.

The appointment of Louis Van Gaal has seen De Gea elevate himself to another level this season. Early in the season, it was De Gea’s impressive displays that kept United relevant in the race for Champions League positions. Highlight reel displays against Everton, Chelsea and Arsenal sparked rumors that Real Madrid were ready to pull the trigger on bringing De Gea back to Spain in order to replace Iker Casillas at the Santiago Bernabéu. In the 33 games this season, De Gea has already managed to record 10 clean sheets behind a relatively weak United backline. If the Red Devils are able to hold on and clinch a spot in next year’s Champions League, the fans will have De Gea to thank.

International Play

De Gea has played on every level of Spain’s Youth National Team from the U-15s to the U-23s. With players like Iker Casillas, Pepe Reina and Victor Valdes (who is now his backup at United) in front of the young keeper in recent years, a breakthrough into the full national team did not come until 2014. After earning his first cap for the national team against El Salvador in June, the United keeper traveled to Brazil as one of the national team’s three keepers for the 2014 World Cup. Despite the lack of international play, De Gea is widely considered Casillas’ long-term replacement in the legendary Spanish national team.


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