David de Gea was not meant to be playing for Spain at the 2014 World Cup finals. In fact, until this month, the Manchester United goalkeeper had not even made his debut for the reigning European and world champions.
The 23-year-old got called up by coach Vicente del Bosque because of a long-term injury to outgoing Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes. And now by a cruel twist of fate, the former Atletico Madrid star’s dream of playing in a World Cup game could be over due to injury.
On Sunday, De Gea sat out of the training session due to a gluteal muscle problem. The Spanish football federation (RFEF) did not reveal the estimated time of his recovery period and stated that the goalkeeper will be evaluated on a “day by day” basis. Initial reports in Spain suggest that he could be out for at least 10 days, meaning that his World Cup could be over.
After all, having been thumped 5-1 by the Netherlands in their opening game of the World Cup in Salvador, Spain’s chances of progressing from Group B have taken a knock. True, four years ago in South Africa, La Furia Roja bounced back after losing their first match against Switzerland, but this time psychologically they have received a huge setback.
Captain Iker Casillas was one of the players who had a terrible game against the Dutch and was directly responsible for two of the goals. It was probably his worst game for Spain and there have been suggestions that Del Bosque could drop the Real Madrid legend and replace him with De Gea.
But now De Gea is out of contention, which opens the window of opportunity for another well-known goalkeeper - Pepe Reina. Until last summer, the 31-year-old was the first-choice keeper at Anfield, but the arrival of Simon Mignolet saw him pushed out of the door and move to Napoli on loan for the 2013-14 campaign.
Reina performed well for the Italian club under former Liverpool coach Rafael Benitez, but his wage demands are reportedly too high for the Naples outfit to sign him on a permanent deal. The former Barcelona and Villarreal custodian is set to return to Liverpool after the World Cup for next season, but it looks unlikely that he has any future at the Merseyside outfit under manager Brendan Rodgers.
Arsenal have been linked with a move for Reina, although manager Arsene Wenger has yet to give any indication that he wants the Spain international. Wojciech Szczesny is the undisputed first choice between the posts at the Emirates Stadium, and Reina wouldn’t want to play as a back-up: if that was his intension, then he could just remain at Liverpool.
Reina could remind Europe’s big clubs what he is capable of if Del Bosque gives him the chance in Brazil. The former Madrid coach has always retained his faith in Casillas, but in the light of the humiliation at the hands of the Netherlands, he could well change his mind.
And that is going to benefit Reina, not De Gea.