The Nets Big Thing
David De Gea
For years it seemed like the list of world class Spanish goalkeepers began and ended with Andoni Zubizarreta. Never a world beater, Santiago Canizares was an adequate bridge until the current abundant crop of goalkeepers reached maturity. With Casillas, Reina and Valdes in their World Cup squad, Spain have hands down the strongest goalkeeping division of any nation and arguably the strongest collection of custodians to have ever graced the Mundial. The strength of the division is exemplfied by the fact David De Gea was culled when the squad was trimmed from 30 to the final 23 heading for South Africa. With the incumbent trio all still in various stages of their late twenties, De Gea may have to to wait beyond Brazil 2014 to show his ability on the biggest stage of them all.
Further underlying the strength in depth is the fact that De Gea got his big break in the Atletico Madrid after 20 year old Sergio Asenjo was called up to the Spanish side for FIFA’s Under 20 World Cup last autumn. To say he grasped the opportunity immediately is to overstate it. In his first appearance he conceded a penalty only to save the resulting penalty whilst a few days later he was called into the firing line 26 minutes into the Champions League tie. Atletico crashed to a 2-0 defeat, but it clearly wasn’t enough to quash De Gea’s growing reputation. The combination of a dip in the form of Asenjo and the arrival of Quique Sanchez Flores gave him a run of games in the Copa Del Rey and following the brief Spanish break for winter, he was handed the chance to impress in the La Liga and Europa League campaigns. Whilst Atletico finished the season with the worst defence in the top half of La Liga, De Gea came out with credit and played a pivotal role in their road to European success.
The Madrid local is a product of the Atletico youth academy and has been likened to Edwin Van Der Sar. With his wiry 6” 3′ frame, such comparisons seem inevitable. At such a young age however, it is likely that he will bulk up to become stronger than the Dutchman. It’s early days, but he has a powerful spring to his dives, his ball handling skills look very natural and his positional appears to be effortless. As of yet, it lacks the command of his penalty area and is prone to misjudgments when dealing with crosses, but as he’s only young he’s got plenty of time to work on it. Also of concern would be his penchant for wearing tracksuit bottoms, but you can’t have it all.