David De Gea is a product of Atletico Madrid’s academy. Tall, athletic and confident with the ball, he progressed quickly through the youth ranks and spent his first professional season, 2008/09, with the club’s reserves. A first-team debut arrived early in the following term via a substitute appearance against FC Porto in the UEFA Champions League on 30 September 2009 – and thereafter he never looked back.
De Gea capped his maiden campaign in Atletico Madrid’s first team by playing a major role in winning the UEFA Europa League – the club’s first major European trophy in almost 50 years.
His already burgeoning reputation was further enhanced during his second full season in La Liga and rumours of United’s interest, which had first surfaced in January 2010, were more widely circulated when the Reds’ then goalkeeping coach Eric Steele was seen scouting the youngster.
By the end of the 2010/11 season, David was widely touted by several media outlets as the primary choice to replace the retiring Edwin van der Sar at Old Trafford, although talks were put on hold whilst he helped Spain win UEFA’s Under-21 European Championship in Denmark. The transfer was completed after the tournament, on 29 June, and De Gea subsequently linked up with his new team-mates on the pre-season tour of North America.
Despite his tender years, De Gea enjoyed a largely successful first campaign in Manchester. And having endured a baptism of fire from the media, who unfairly scrutinised his every move, he adapted well to the English game.
Unfortunately, that first season ended with title heartbreak on the final day; an experience which stood him in good stead during the 2012/13 campaign when, along with his team-mates, the Barclays Premier League title was reclaimed at a canter.
De Gea was a standout figure throughout his second season, earning a place in the prestigious PFA Team of the Year whilst finishing third in the fans’ voting or the Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year award.
After helping Spain retain their European Under-21 crown, De Gea returned to Old Trafford for what would turn out to be a tough 2013/14 campaign for the Reds, but one in which he maintained a high level of personal performance.
He made his 100th club appearance against Tottenham Hotspur and kept 20 clean sheets in all competitions, and his consistent displays were recognised as he was named both Player of the Year and Players’ Player of the Year. As if that wasn’t enough, the United no.1 was chosen in his country’s 2014 World Cup squad and made his senior international debut in a pre-tournament friendly against El Salvador, coming on as a substitute for Iker Casillas for the final few minutes of Spain’s 2-0 win.
The 2015/16 season began with a rumoured transfer to Real Madrid falling through, yet De Gea remained professional throughout the saga and went on to produce one of his finest seasons with United, winning the Player of the Year award, the FA Cup and another place in the PFA Team of the Year becoming the first Manchester United player to win three consecutive Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year awards