Madrid's Real stupidity cost them De Gea's prowess in nets

Manchester United's David De Gea seems set to have to wait a while yet for his dream move to the Bernabeu
Hitting the Target with Kenny Archer

NEVER mind the arguments about whether or not Manchester United had submitted their paperwork correctly, and in time, it is clear to me who was to blame for the collapse of the David de Gea transfer – Real Madrid.

Unless they can mount a successful appeal to Fifa, Los Merengues have been left with egg on their face through their own fault entirely. If – and there are a lot of ifs involved in this messy transfer saga – reports are to be believed, then de Gea was valued at £29m, with Costa Rica keeper Keylor Navas (rated at £7m) going to Old Trafford as part of the package.

That bit really is hard to believe, though. Just £29m for de Gea? Apparently, Manchester United were holding out for a world record transfer fee for a goalkeeper, and would have been entirely right to do so. That would have exceeded the £37m Juventus paid Parma for Gianluigi Buffon in 2001 – yet, in my view, De Gea would still have been cheap at that price.

After all, it’s 14 years since that mega-deal and inflation and the vast increase in the amount of money in soccer mean that Buffon’s cost would have been far higher in today’s market. Indeed, the Italian’s transfer would have matched the world record fee (at least in sterling) paid the previous year for Luis Figo – by Real Madrid, funnily enough, to Barcelona – if not for the fact that Real had just lashed out even more to acquire Zinedine Zidane for £46m, taking him from Juventus.

In fact, Real Madrid have held the world transfer fee record since that controversial Figo deal, breaking it in turn for Zidane, Kaka, Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale. So it boggles my mind that they left it so late and were so penny-pinching (within the crazy terms of football finances) about de Gea.

Given that Manchester United accepted a £29m package for de Gea, it’s clear that the Red Devils were fairly flexible in their valuation. They certainly weren’t asking for anywhere near the world record transfer fee, in fact they only wanted about a third of what Madrid paid for Bale two years ago.

For that, Real would have been getting a goalkeeper who bears much comparison with the brilliant Buffon. Both were teenage sensations, thrust into first team action for fairly big clubs (Parma and Atletico Madrid) and then soon moving on to even bigger ones (Juventus and Manchester United). Both are tall, lanky even; somewhat surprisingly, the Spaniard is actually 1cm taller than the Italian, the former just making 6’4”. Yet both have superb reactions and make many stunning saves.

Manchester United are said to be 'relaxed’ about the collapse of the transfer, which is understandable. Sure, they run the risk of losing de Gea on a 'free’ next year, but in the meantime they have a world class goalkeeper to call up, as long as they can get him back into the right frame of mind to perform at his top level.

To be fair to Madrid, goalkeepers are routinely under-appreciated. In their book Soccernomics, authors Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski's listed a dozen 'secrets’ about the transfer market, including the following: "Centre-forwards are overvalued; goalkeepers are undervalued". Manchester United’s willingness to pay at least £36m for a largely unknown teenage attacker proves that point.

Admittedly, fees haven’t been recalculated to put them into a modern-day perspective, but besides Buffon only one other goalkeeper has cost more than £20m, that being Manuel Neuer who moved to Bayern Munich for around £21m. Interestingly, of the top 15 fees paid for 'keepers, almost half the buying clubs were Italians, who understand a thing or two about defending and preventing goals.

On the subject of not conceding, another book analysing soccer statistics, The Numbers Game, found that clean sheets, on average, produced almost 2.5 points per game, whereas scoring one goal earns, on average, around one point per game. Conceding one goal, a team will still end up with around 1.5 points on average, more than scoring one goal usually gets you.

Yet, despite the rise of analytics, even a club as big and rich as Real Madrid is still stupid enough not to pay up what a great goalkeeper is worth in order to secure his transfer.


IF THERE was real consistency in GAA analysis and punditry, one of the big questions might have been this: Who boxed Jack Kennedy?

Who? you may ask. He’s the young Tipperary footballer who was named man of the match as they won their All-Ireland MFC semi-final last Sunday. Yet before he crossed the pitch to give his post-match interview, Kennedy clearly had to compose himself, apparently having received a punch to the nose.

Kildare minors had already been involved in controversy this season, after their Leinster clash with Offaly, as a certain journalist from the latter county was quick to confirm.

A Croke Park official helpfully turned the TV screen in front of me over to RTÉ for the senior game at that point, so I didn’t find out if Kennedy was asked about that assault, but there doesn’t appear to have been much fuss about it afterwards, with no complaints from Tipp.

If I happened to be a conspiracy theorist, though, I might suggest that, had Tyrone been the culprits, there would undoubtedly have been another Twit-storm and meltdown on all sorts of media, old and social.

Paranoia could also have been provoked further by The Sunday Game analysis of the senior match, both live and for the highlights. Instead of ranting about cynicism, diving, dangerous jumping into opponents and head-butting, Pat Spillane gushed out a ‘What a game…’ eulogy to Dublin-Mayo.

Joe Brolly was literally bouncing with excitement, grinning gleefully, equally thrilled by Mayo’s comeback, as any non-Dub and non-Mayo-hater would have been. And that’s how it should be – because I have to be consistent, even if pundits aren’t. The Dungiven man did express his disappointment with Dublin’s cynicism.

On the highlights show, Ciarán Whelan admitted Philly McMahon wouldn’t be happy with how he’d behaved. It was hard for Whelan to criticise his own county, people he’d played alongside. Kevin McStay calmly called Dublin out for diving and feigning injury.

In my view, that’s all fair enough. Points don’t have to be made with hysteria and hyperbole.

All I ask is that the next time Tyrone do something wrong – and it will happen – can the pundits please be consistent and not overreact?


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