David de Gea to Real Madrid has been one of those transfer sagas that simply refuses to go away with the Spanish stopper linked with a move to the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu almost every single summer.
Following the fax machine debacle which prevented a switch going through on the deadline of the summer transfer window in 2015 it seems as though United hold a rather strong bargaining position courtesy of De Gea extending his Old Trafford contract.
Subsequent record transfers involving goalkeepers have only strengthened the Reds’ resolve as they see De Gea as the absolute best goalkeeper in the world and as such would be difficult to replace, especially at a time when United haven’t been at the forefront of European football.
Mourinho’s arrival a turning point
Jose Mourinho’s arrival in Manchester seems to have changed the mood around the club.
They now have a settled transfer strategy with clear aims, they have a coach who is very well versed in the art of winning and lifting trophies and for the first time since Sir Alex Ferguson retired they have qualified directly for the Group Stage of the Champions League.
However with all that said about the recent upturn in fortunes at United, there is one major reason why David de Gea is unlikely to become Real Madrid’s number one goalkeeper and that is Zinedine Zidane.
As long as the Frenchman remains in a position of strength in the Spanish capital it is very unlikely transfers will be forced upon him.
He remains fiercely loyal to Keylor Navas, who was exceptional in the 2015/16 season and then rediscovered his form just as the 2016/17 campaign reached its climax with Los Blancos securing the La Liga and Champions League double.
The summer of 2016 brought a key illustration of the power and influence held by Zidane with it unlike that of any manager before him in recent years.
Zidane handed control by Perez
It must be said that context is important and when Zidane was hired Florentino Perez’s approval rating amongst supporters and members were believed to be incredibly low.
His policy of firing coaches was becoming tiresome especially after the incredibly popular Carlo Ancelotti was dismissed less than a year after winning the club’s heavily coveted 10th European Cup and then being replaced by Rafa Benitez, a move that baffled onlookers across the globe.
As a result, Perez has kept a reasonable distance and let the Frenchman do his job.
Last summer’s transfer window was a prime opportunity for the club to make a really big move with Paul Pogba and Eden Hazard both attainable at that time yet Zidane, having just won the European Cup, was confident in his squad and didn’t wish to upset the balance after already adding Alvaro Morata.
Perez acquiesced and it was an uncharacteristically quiet transfer window for the club renowned for always getting their man.
Faith in Navas
Real Madrid retained an option to sign De Gea for a fee in the region of £40 million that was valid until June 15 2016, but Zidane’s insistence that the Costa Rican would remain his first-choice ensured such a clause went unused.
A poor run of form after missing the beginning of the season through an Achilles injury saw Navas come under significant scrutiny. It is no coincidence that around this time there were the first reports that De Gea was once again on the summer agenda.
Defeat at home to Barcelona in the very last minute opened up the domestic title race and it became clear that if Zidane failed to secure the Spanish championship he would once again be in the proverbial hotseat.
Subsequent success in two competitions gave the 44-year-old strength once again and for the second successive summer Perez has handed total control over the club’s incoming business to the coach.
De Gea is not in Zidane’s plans and given his loyalty to Navas he won’t be for the foreseeable future.
The Frenchman must keep the momentum going
The only thing that could change this is if Zidane has a bad season and goes without one of the big two trophies. This will increase the pressure on him and Perez will look to take back control.
He won’t dismiss Zidane as that would be a dangerous move even though the president is once again in a strong position himself. However he will look to place his influence on team affairs once more.
De Gea is a target for Perez because he is high-profile player who is arguably the absolute best in his position, he would also be a popular choice within the club given he is Spanish.
For the moment, Los Blancos are settled.
It is a rather bizarre state for a club that since the year 2000 has been the hallmark of footballing instability whilst somehow still keeping their place at the top, or at least very near, of European football.
Zidane doesn’t look for major change and it will be interesting to see how he goes about replenishing his team two or three years down the line when the majority of their stars will be at the end of their respective careers, but for the moment he holds the keys to Real Madrid’s transfer plans and for as long as he does Manchester United supporters can in all likelihood rest easy.
Written by Chris Winterburn
Follow Chris on Twitter @Chriswin4
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