While it’s usually the big name attackers making all the transfer story headlines, this summer it’s been goalkeepers taking up column inches in Spanish and English papers. First, Peter Cech was hailed as the signing that could transform Arsenal from perennial fourth-place finishers into legitimate Premier League contenders. And now with Iker Casillas on the verge of leaving Real Madrid to join Porto, the stage is set for the next phase of what’s in danger of becoming the longest and most protracted goalkeeping transfer saga in football history: bringing David De Gea to Real Madrid from Manchester United.
Negotiations in the Casillas deal nearly broke down on Thursday night. However both parties reportedly reached an agreement on Friday morning, under which Madrid will pay part of Casillas salary to assure he earns what he’s due while the two remaining years on his contract run out. Casillas has been offered a two-year contract with Porto, who finished second in the Portuguese Primeira Liga last season.
With Casillas set to leave the club he joined 25 years ago, the path will be cleared for Real Madrid to complete its pursuit of De Gea. It’s hard to determine which is more unusual: a 33-year-old goalkeeper being hailed as the signing that could turn a top-four team into a champion, or a club like Real Madrid making a goalkeeper its main transfer target this summer.
From the sound of what’s coming out of Old Trafford, De Gea won’t be cheap either. United are understandably in no hurry to sell and have placed a price tag of around $54 million on the 24-year-old keeper. Real Madrid are thought to be reluctant to pay such a fee for a player they can get on a free in 12 months time. Allowing Casillas to go to Porto makes signing a keeper all the more imperative though, something that could strengthen United’s hand.
The situation is all the more pressing with Kaylor Navas out injured and Madrid set to leave on a preseason tour with third-choice keeper Pacheco as their only available option. Already there are reports that the Madrid is sounding out Espanyol net-minder Kiko Casilla as a possible alternative. The 28-year-old Casilla, a former Real Madrid youth-team player, would likely serve as backup for Navas if Madrid and United fail to reach terms over De Gea.
One other possible scenario could see Madrid offer Sergio Ramos in part exchange for De Gea. The longstanding Madrid defender has seen his relationship with the club and its fans break down over the past season. Meanwhile Louis van Gaal is looking to bolster United’s defense and has identified Ramos and Valencia center back Nicolas Otamendi’ as his main defensive transfer targets.
The path from Old Trafford to the Bernabeu has been well travelled over the years. Whether it’s Cristiano Ronaldo, David Beckham or Ruud van Nistelrooy, when Real Madrid sets its sights on a Manchester United player, one way or another, they usually get him. De Gea, a Madrid native, is thought to favor a return to Spain in order to be closer to his family. So ultimately, it’s more a question of when, rather than if he will join Real Madrid.