David de Gea has extended his contract with Manchester United, but that should leave fans more worried than ever about his future.
Contract talks began with De Gea over the summer, and the club were confident that an extension could be arranged. According to other reports, De Gea was seeking a raise in his salary to around £300,000, which would have been less than Alexis Sanchez but in line with Paul Pogba. As the best player at the club and the best goalkeeper in the world, that is a fair, if hefty, sum of money to be handing over.
But United are the richest club in the world by many estimates, and with Chris Smalling and Phil Jones defiantly continuing their existence at Old Trafford, it is essential that the defence keeps its only competent member. Ed Woodward has shown he refuses to buy players like Toby Alderweireld because he is not sure they are any better than Marcos Rojo, so there is no guarantee that he won’t simply ask Lee Grant to take over duties as number one should De Gea leave, but he will probably be desperate to keep De Gea so he does not have to fork out on a replacement.
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Extending De Gea’s contract for another 12 months might give succour to United fans as a result. But it is a sign that United are planning for his exit rather than trying to keep hold of him. Of course they would happily give him the money to stay, but that has been the case for the best part of six months now. That means it is likely that the club realise that De Gea has elected to focus on trophies rather than money.
De Gea may not get quite the same wages elsewhere, but for a significant raise on his current wages he could move to either Juventus or Paris Saint-Germain, both teams with European ambitions who could do with a relatively young, world class goalkeeper. They are also both sides who are close to guaranteed to win an annual league trophy as well as building towards a challenge for the European Cup.
The 12 months merely ensures that the 28 year old cannot sign a pre-contract in January in order to secure a free transfer next summer, and secure move with bumper wages. It means that should De Gea decide that he will not renew off his own back, then the club can sell in the summer, and raise around £50 million in order to find a replacement, or to pay the Glazer family a dividend. With the club happy to hand over huge wages to players like Daley Blind before he left, that cannot be a sticking point.
De Gea has always been happy to stay at Manchester in the past because he liked the club and his life. He was content to continue for years after his move to Real Madrid fell apart for those reasons. Whatever motivations he had to leave then, they do not appear so severe they prevented him from signing a new contract shortly after. If he were content with contract negotiations then the club would surely not feel the need to invoke any extension at this stage.
That means something has changed, and watching Marouane Fellaini bundle in a last-minute winner against Seville, while the two best outfield players at the club move from sulk to another, as the manager sounds off in front of the cameras to his own end, he has probably just got sick with rescuing his side with little reward. Unless he has indulged in terrible financial mismanagement, we can assume he is comfortable for the rest of his life – satisfaction will come from reaching a club with ambitions that match both his own and his ambitions.
United know that, and that is almost certainly why they have extended his contract unilaterally. United have him for another year, legally speaking, but we should now expect him to leave in the summer.