On Monday, as part of a multi-page preview of the Spain versus Morocco match, Marca had an article on David De Gea.
The Manchester United goalkeeper had a poor first game against Portugal and the Spanish media then talked up doubts about his position. There were countless articles suggesting a change should be made, fans were polled and certainly weren’t backing De Gea in a big way, and it was one of the biggest talking points.
When going over the possible outcomes of the Morocco match, Marca said: ‘There is a certainty, and that is if David De Gea keeps a clean sheet, Spain will qualify for the next round.’
All on you then, David.
They ended their article with: ‘The confidence that Fernando Hierro and the rest of the internationals have transmitted to De Gea is essential for the goalkeeper to return to the path that has led him to be considered the best goalkeeper in the Premier League last season.’
The match finished 2-2 and Spain were fortunate to finish top of their group. De Gea wasn’t to blame for either of Morocco’s goals, but Marca awarded him a single star. The Spanish newspaper didn’t think much of most of the Spain team, and Sergio Ramos and David Silva both got blank ratings.
It was a performance neither here nor there for De Gea. He didn’t play badly but he also wasn’t able to string a series of saves together like he so often is at Manchester United.
Tuesday’s Marca has another article on the goalkeeper, headline: ‘One save and a thousand doubts’
Those doubts ‘increased’ after the Morocco match for Marca. Spain’s opponents scored twice, Boutaib’s opener went through De Gea’s legs, but it was hardly what would usually be described as poor goalkeeping.
Morocco’s second goal was a header that De Gea stood no chance with. If the blame game were to be played then the finger would likely point at Sergio Ramos.
Marca, and others in Spain, seem miffed that their goalkeeper has only saved one shot during the World Cup, which is a slightly strange take. If he’s had a limited number of shots to save, and hasn’t made any howlers, apart from the first game, then it’s hardly a bad news story.
Perhaps Spain’s defence should have thought about this and let a few more shots get through, making sure their stopper could impress the cameras. The one save he did make didn’t impress enough for Marca, and they say that for Amrabat’s brilliant shot which crashed off the crossbar, De Gea looked like a ‘statue’ and ‘surprised’.
It takes a stretch that even De Gea wouldn’t be capable of to criticise his reaction to that shot, do Marca really feel he could have stopped it?
Over at AS, the Manchester United player was given a blank mark for his performance, along with three teammates.
Mundo Deportivo rated De Gea 4/10, the worst of Spain’s performers along with Silva, and they believe he holds responsibility for defensive mistakes, and they also bring up the statistic of only one save in the tournament.
Spanish fans have of course jumped on the bandwagon and whilst it’d be wrong to say De Gea has displayed his best level at this World Cup so far, it’s not too hard to state the reaction has been a little strange.
If it’s thought that he’s lacking in confidence, then it’s odd for the Spanish media to say that on one hand and on the other go over the top in their criticism. This isn’t a case of believing a nation’s media should cheerlead (let’s not get into all that again) but be fair, and certainly not build an agenda.
Maybe De Gea is approached from a position of not having a weight of backing in Spain. It took a long time for him to take over from Iker Casillas, perhaps longer than was wise, and the Real Madrid legend is now looked back on through a veneer of nostalgia.
Almost moving to Real Madrid will have seen him become a mild Catalan target, but on the other hand him not then pushing hard enough for the transfer to eventually happen will have also annoyed some Madridistas.
The 27 year old has faced doubts before. At the beginning of his Manchester United career he was widely mocked, with again a lot of the criticism being beyond reason (including rather odd suggestions the club had lied about his height to make him appear more suitable) and he came back superbly.
But this is in the middle of a World Cup. The last thing De Gea needs is for things to be twisted against him to build a narrative which then needs to be fed.