How good is David De Gea?

Deputy sports editor Joel McInally marvels at just how good David De Gea is and why British football fans are lucky to watch him play regularly.

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Those that frequently explore the dark corners of football Twitter will be familiar with the outlandish and ludicrous claims that are often made on the platform. This phenomenon is something that fans are used to having to put up with, or even laugh at, such as in Paddy Power’s inspired “Fan Denial” series. However, one claim that has been uttered a worrying amount is so ridiculous that it should be viewed as unacceptable to voice even on Twitter, and that is the belief that not a single Manchester United player would get into the Man City team. The reason that this idea is unsettling is not to do with the slight it deals to top players such as Paul Pogba or Juan Mata, as arguments could be made for their exclusion.
Instead, by arguing that a Manchester select XI should be United free, it is being said that Ederson is a better ‘keeper that David De Gea. That anyone believes this is astonishing and is tantamount to blasphemy.

While Ederson is undeniably a top player, with superb distribution, this does not mean that he is a stronger ‘keeper than De Gea. This is evident when the Spaniard’s performance this season is analysed, with the statistics behind his game simply staggering. To begin with, De Gea has kept a league best 14 clean sheets, which may not be surprising for a Manchester United goalkeeper, but the data shows that these performances are despite his defence, not because of it. So far this season, De Gea has faced 99 shots on goal, in comparison with Courtois and Ederson who have faced 59 and 54 shots respectively. Even Petr Cech has faced less shots playing behind Arsenal’s supposedly leaky defence.

While statistics can often be twisted in football to present a particular point of view, it is difficult to argue with the numbers behind the United ‘keeper’s season. However, it is not the De Gea’s solid performances that result in him catching the eye, with the Spaniard having become known for the superlative-defying saves he has made throughout his career. Arguably, De Gea’s talent has never been more apparent than his performance against Arsenal this season, which saw him make an incredible 14 saves. This alone would have been impressive enough, but what made it even greater was the nature of the saves.

In the first half he made a sprawling save when Alexandre Lacazette seemed certain to score, before somehow clawing the ball away after Romelu Lukaku had diverted it towards his own goal. This then continued in the second half, with De Gea superbly denying Lacazette again, and the miraculously blocking the follow up from Alexis via an outstretched leg. In his postmatch interview United manager Jose Mourinho declared De Gea to be the best goalkeeper in the world. While, Mourinho may divide opinion somewhat, I think there are few football fans who will question his opinion on this matter.

Now that De Gea is widely regarded as the best goalkeeper in the world, my belief that he is underrated may be as irrational as my love for Joselu, however I firmly believe that he is. This is because while De Gea receives the recognition he deserves as a goalkeeper, he does not as a footballer. When pundits and football fans discuss the best player on the Premier League, the discussion centres around creative or attacking players, such as Kevin De Bruyne, Mo Salah or Harry Kane. In fact, the only defensive player that is admitted into this debate is N’Golo Kanté.

That De Gea is not frequently mentioned when talking about the best players in Premier League is truly baffling, especially when you consider that he is probably the only player in the league who is definitely the best in the world in his position.
In fact, I believe that De Gea should be seen as more than being one of the best players in the Premier League, he should be regarded as one of the best players in the world. While Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have been streets ahead of the rest for the past decade or so, there will come a day when they are replaced at the top of world football. Much of the discussion on who are their natural heirs as the world’s best players has centred upon the likes of Neymar and Kylian Mbappé, but I firmly believe that De Gea could establish himself as one of the best players in the world, and could even become the second goalkeeper after Lev Yashin to win the Ballon d’Or.

De Gea is a talent that the Premier League is fortunate to have playing in it every week, and the fact that he has just 18 months remaining on his deal should be of great worry to British football fans. If the Premier League is to live up to its claim of being the best league in the world then it must feature the best players in the world. Hopefully Manchester United will be able to convince their star player to renew his contract for his best years. If they do, De Gea could continue to establish himself as not just the greatest ‘keeper in Manchester United’s history, but also as one of the greatest ‘keepers the game has seen.

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