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Manchester United are convinced that they have seen off the threat of losing David De Gea to Real Madrid this summer.
Jose Mourinho is understood to be sure that the Premier League goalkeeper of the year will remain at Old Trafford for at least one further season, simplifying the ongoing process of restructuring the club’s back four.
Uncertainty over the Spain international’s future has become an annual occurrence at United. In 2015, Madrid came within seconds of signing De Gea in a deadline-day deal that fell through because United failed to deliver paperwork in time to secure international transfer clearance.
Within a fortnight the goalkeeper signed an improved Old Trafford contract, running until 2019, yet including a €60million release clause tailored solely to Madrid.
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That one-club option permitted Madrid to recruit De Gea for what-represented a world-record transfer fee for a goalkeeper, but had to be activated by June 15 last year. With Zinedine Zidane deciding to retain Keylor Navas as his first-choice for the position, Madrid allowed their single-window clause to expire without utilising it.
De Gea remains a long-term target of Madrid president Florentino Perez, who is conscious of the commercial value of adding a young and popular national team player to his squad of Galacticos.
Perez is also aware of De Gea’s continued interest in returning to his home city and the League in which he first established his reputation at capital city rivals Atletico.
With Madrid making preliminary noises about initiating another bid for the 26-year-old as the 2016-17 campaign approached its conclusion, Mourinho asked his goalkeeper directly if he wished to join them.
According to multiple sources, De Gea replied honestly that at some point in his career he would like to play for Madrid if the opportunity presented itself.
As a result, Mourinho made provisions in his summer reinforcement plans in case he was forced to recruit a new goalkeeper. To De Gea’s frustration, back-up goalkeeper Sergio Romero retained a place in the starting line-up throughout United’s successful Europa League campaign.
The Portuguese coach also made it clear that he was prepared to sell to Madrid as part of a €75m deal that would also see Alvaro Morata move to Old Trafford.
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Madrid, however, did not accept that valuation of their forward. As De Gea held true to an undertaking that he would neither request a transfer out of the Premier League, nor push United to be allowed to leave this summer, negotiations for Morata evolved into discussions over a straight cash deal in which Madrid’s asking price has not been met. With Zidane once again supportive of Navas, United believe this summer’s pursuit of De Gea is at an end.
Although Mourinho would have been happier if De Gea had committed himself unconditionally to United when they initially discussed the matter, there is a recognition that it is natural for a Madrid native who has been recognised by his peers as the Premier League’s best goalkeeper for three straight years to be attracted to joining Spain’s premier club.
More important to the manager is De Gea’s readiness to perform to the peak of his abilities in United’s upcoming campaign, something which has not proven an issue following past approaches from Madrid.
Both of De Gea’s preferred understudies have been rewarded with new contracts this month. Romero, 30, has signed a deal running until 2021, while Joel Pereira – a recent target for Portuguese champions Benfica – is now contracted to United for the same period plus an option to extend for a further year.
“Joel progressed really well during the course of the last season through hard work and commitment every day in training,” said Mourinho. “I know I have said this before, but I really do believe if he continues his development and continues to work hard, he can become the best Portuguese goalkeeper of the next generation.”