From the publishers of THE HINDU
VOL.34 :: NO.06 :: Feb. 10, 2011
Goalkeepers, it is often said, get better with age. If that is the case then David de Gea has an incredibly bright future ahead of him.
The 20-year-old is having an outstanding season with Atletico Madrid helping the Rojiblancos to challenge for European qualification after being part of the side that secured UEFA Europa League glory in last season's final against Fulham.
De Gea was unfortunate to miss out on Spain's World Cup squad last summer, although he was always likely to struggle to oust Barcelona's Victor Valdes and captain Iker Casillas. But there are already comparisons to be made between De Gea and Casillas.
Both players were handed their first-team debuts while still in their teens, and neither took long to establish themselves as first-choice at their respective clubs. De Gea's debut came in a UEFA Champions League defeat to Porto when he replaced the injured Roberto. His La Liga debut came just three days later against Real Zaragoza.
Things did not appear to be going his way when he gave away an early penalty, but he saved the resulting spot-kick as Quique Sanchez Flores' side eventually prevailed 2-1.
Further impressive performances followed and by the time the club had dropped into the latter stages of the Europa League, following their Champions League exit, he was club's the number one keeper.
His excellent form won him a place in Spain's provisional World Cup squad, before he was cut from the final selection.
Despite that disappointment he has excelled again this term, notably saving a Diego Milito penalty as Atletico won the UEFA Super Cup 2-0 in Monaco.
But his most notable display to date came in the 2-1 La Liga defeat to Barcelona in September. De Gea pulled off a string of fantastic saves against the rampant Catalans to keep a respectable slant to the score that his side barely deserved.
Sanchez Flores wasted little time in hailing his man as the best goalkeeper in the world. “No-one needs to tell me he is a great goalkeeper. The best in the world,” he said.
And Barcelona striker David Villa was also full of admiration for the keeper after being denied on several occasions. “De Gea was sensational in all his actions and it is true that on many occasions he saved his team from letting in more goals,” he said.
Despite all the hype, De Gea has creditably remained grounded and has not allowed speculation linking him with a move to Manchester United to unsettle him. And, as he was keen to point out following that wonderful display against Barcelona, he knows consistent displays will be the key to a successful career.
“I'm grateful to the fans for the ovations and for the praise I've received, but I must be calm because I've still got a lot to learn. I'm very young,” he said. “(Barcelona goalkeeper Victor) Valdes came to congratulate me personally and I really appreciate that because he's a great goalkeeper.
"When the fans chant your name it's incredible, it gives you goose bumps. The fact that (Barcelona coach Pep) Guardiola praised me in the press conference is very nice, but I insist it's not just me, but the whole team that has done a great job.”
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