De Gea transfer collapse causes online storm
Real Madrid says it did "everything necessary"
Manchester United declines to comment
Goalkeeper set to stay unless appeal is made
Was it the ultimate in brinksmanship? And just who blinked first?
The failure of two of the world’s biggest soccer clubs – Manchester United and Real Madrid – to complete David de Gea’s signing is being treated on social media as one of the modern transfer window’s greatest farces, but amid all the confusion both teams come out of it as losers.
The English team faces the prospect of losing arguably the world’s best goalkeeper for nothing when his contract expires in July. Having been frozen out of the team by manager Louis van Gaal while the summer-long saga played out, what incentive does United’s two-time player of the year have for returning to action?
For Real president Florentino Perez, who has a proud reputation of making “Galactico” marquee signings, the failure to deliver on the Spanish giant’s big transfer target means a considerable loss of face – while the reputation of United chief executive and negotiator Ed Woodward has surely suffered also.
On Tuesday, Madrid issued a lengthy statement on its website detailing how the club had done “everything necessary in every moment” to conclude a deal which would have sent Spain international De Gea to the Bernabeu and Costa Rica keeper Keylor Navas to Old Trafford ahead of the previous night’s 2200 GMT deadline.
According to Madrid, United did not agree to open negotiations for De Gea until Monday morning, but that a deal for both players was “quickly reached” and the contracts were sent to Manchester at 1139 GMT.
Real claims United returned these, with minor amendments, eight hours later.
Madrid says it returned the signed contracts at 2132 GMT, then United agreed its terms with Navas’ agent at 2153. It says the English club then entered De Gea’s details in FIFA’s electronic Transfer Matching System (TMS) at 2200, along with the signed contracts.
Real says it received the documentation at 2202 – by which time the TMS had closed as the window for non-British European leagues had shut.
The deadline for English teams is 1700 GMT Tuesday and, while Real said the TMS had invited the club to enter De Gea’s registration at 2226 Monday, it gave no indication in its statement that it had done so.
However, Real said it “decided to send the contracts to the Spanish Professional League, even knowing the deadline had already passed.”
After originally telling CNN it was not intending to respond to Real Madrid’s claims, United issued a statement late Tuesday and appeared to put the blame on the Spaniards.
United offered up its own time line and said it was “delighted” that De Gea wasn’t going anywhere.
“The fact that Manchester United filed the papers on time was acknowledged by the Football Association, who offered to support that claim in any discussions with FIFA,” United said in the statement. “The club offered this assistance, as well as its own timestamped documents to Real Madrid but they have chosen not to go down this route.
“Manchester United acts appropriately and efficiently in its transfer dealings. The club is delighted that its fan-favorite double Player of the Year, David de Gea, remains a Manchester United player.”
Former Liverpool and Juventus star Ian Rush said a pact should have been finalized sooner.
“This should never have got this far anyway,” he told CNN’s World Sport on Tuesday. “At the end of the day, we all knew De Gea was going to leave. Why didn’t they get the deal done, why did they leave it so late?
“What’s De Gea going to do? Does he play in the Champions League for Manchester United? Does he wait until January and then he becomes a free agent in the summer? Manchester United were holding out for the biggest fee they could get for him.”
De Gea has been expected to return to his home city – where he played for Real’s rival Atletico before joining United in 2011 – ever since he decided not to sign a new contract at the end of last season.
United initially said Real could only sign the 24-year-old if Spain defender Sergio Ramos made the opposite move.
When Ramos ended uncertainty about his future by signing a new five-year contract this month and becoming club captain under new coach Rafael Benitez, Woodward reportedly responded by demanding a world-record fee for a goalkeeper of £32.6 million ($50 million) if De Gea was to depart.
Predictably, the internet erupted with glee when reports emerged that the much-anticipated deal had not been completed by Monday’s deadline.
Some blamed Woodward, some praised him for keeping United’s key asset, while others suggested the failure was due to a fax malfunction (prompting the question: Who uses a fax these days?).
It was even joked that the late delay occurred because United still used Windows 95, hence Real’s staff could not open the documents.
European football’s governing body UEFA even got involved in the confusion, with its Champions League Twitter account claiming De Gea was definitely staying at United and would be in the club’s squad for this season’s competition. The tweet was quickly deleted – UEFA told CNN it was “posted in error.”
So what now for De Gea, Navas, Real and United?
Unless either club appeals to the authorities, then the players will stay where they are at least until the next transfer window opens on January 1, when De Gea is free to negotiate a pre-contract agreement with any club.
FIFA told CNN two hours before Tuesday’s English transfer deadline: “We do not appear to have been contacted by either of the parties in this matter.”
There will no doubt be more twists and turns in this saga, which has provided more ridicule than bragging rights for two of soccer’s financial heavyweights.
Manchester United, meanwhile, signed young French forward Anthony Martial on Tuesday for a reported £36 million ($55 million) after agreeing a four-year contract.
The 19-year-old joins from Ligue 1 side Monaco, where he scored 15 goals in 70 appearances since joining from Lyon in 2013.
“Anthony is a talented young forward with great potential,” manager Van Gaal said of the player, who last week received his first senior international call.
“I believe this is the club for him to continue his development.”