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IT'S OVER! Why David De Gea has told Florentino & Real Madrid to jog on

COMMENT: Kepa Arrizabalaga? He must be some goalkeeper. After all, this is the lad Real Madrid want to succeed Keylor Navas. Not David de Gea. No. Not even after that performance at the Emirates on Saturday night.

33 shots Arsenal had over the 90. 33! And De Gea made a Premier League record 14 saves. Only Tim Krul with Newcastle United and Vito Mannone with the Gunners matching the Manchester United No1's feat. And if we're to see a better double save this season than the one to deny Alexandre Lacazette and Alexis Sanchez then we'll all be lucky.

At the final whistle, before he had time to catch his breath in the away locker room, Jose Mourinho, his United manager, pulled De Gea aside to tell him: "You just proved yourself the best in world".

The man who ended the Real Madrid career of Iker Casillas. Who managed to phase Petr Cech out of Chelsea. For Mourinho, the slaying of sacred goalkeeping cows ends here. All that ruck about the Europa League six months ago, now forgotten. De Gea has won his manager over. He knew that well before Saturday in London - which we learned during the week from Spain.

In conversation with Jorge Mendes, both his and Mourinho's agent, De Gea said just days ago: “Real Madrid? I'm the goalkeeper of Manchester United and Spain. What more could I ask for?"

Mourinho's public support was the final piece of the jigsaw. His contract, though running only to 2019, makes him the highest paid goalkeeper in the history of the game. After the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson, he's now again playing Champions League football. And under Mourinho, De Gea is winning silverware.

He's cocked it up. Florentino Perez. If there's one man to blame for failing to prise De Gea away from United, it is the Real Madrid president. The word now is the deal is just about off. But not because Perez's interest has waned. Oh no. It's now coming from the player's side. After three years of waiting. Of sacrificing (we'll get to that later). De Gea has had enough. The idea of a return to Madrid is now on the backburner.

Running into the January market, you'll see conflicting stories. Kepa, Athletic Bilbao's newly capped No1, will be joining Real. Either in June, when his contract expires, or as early as next month. But either way, those in the know insist the Spain international will become a Real Madrid player in 2018.

And with that, the door will shut - finally - on the prospect De Gea returning to Madrid. It's been suggested Kepa could join Real as De Gea's No2. But that's fantasy stuff. After the year he's had with Bilbao, those close to the youngster insist there's no way he'd risk losing such momentum by going to a club as a backup. Kepa would sooner sign new terms with Athletic than leave without any playing guarantees - and that includes Real Madrid.

However, these negotiations have only intensified over the past month. And only after it became clear De Gea had had enough. The message had been relayed back to Perez - via Mendes. It's now gone beyond the point of no return.

The door is still ajar. But De Gea is no longer prepared to put himself out. Looking on from his side of the table, the Spaniard feels the effort he has made to keep the deal alive has not been matched. At United, he feels valued. By the board. His teammates. Even now the manager. At Real, the feedback has been negative on all three opposite fronts.

De Gea knows how highly Keylor Navas is regarded inside the Real locker room. And by his coach Zinedine Zidane. Going into last summer's transfer market, Mendes had implored Perez to find a buyer for Keylor to smooth any tension sparked by De Gea's arrival. That the president failed to do so, with both Zidane and skipper Sergio Ramos putting their foot down, gave De Gea second thoughts.

However, the 27 year-old was still sure enough in his ability that he could win over any skeptic inside Valdebebas. What really has irked De Gea - and Mendes - is Perez's unwillingness to publicly push harder to bring him back home.

There's been no campaign from Real to match what was laid out for Gareth Bale - and before him Cristiano Ronaldo. No public confirmation about wishing De Gea to join them. No great praise or interest from the mouth of Zidane. Nothing.

Instead, it's been De Gea who has kept the door open. Last year, he could've cashed in his chips- literally - and called it all off. Only the intervention of Mendes dissuaded De Gea from triggering a €5m penalty clause agreed with Perez. The option emerged as Perez refused to meet a special €50m buyout clause in De Gea's deal. When you consider PSG's willingness to go to €100m for Jan Oblak, Atletico Madrid's No1, the frustration from inside De Gea's camp is understandable.

From Madrid, you're sure to read it. They're insisting it is De Gea who has missed his chance. Kepa is the future, they'll say. Hard to believe on Saturday's evidence, but that's line that is being pedaled.

The truth is De Gea was prepared to make the move. He did his part. Holding up his part of the bargain. But Real and Perez never met him halfway. And no matter how his confidants in the Madrid press want to spin it, our lying eyes can't deceive us.

A Spaniard. Of world class level. 27 and at the peak of his powers. Produced the best goalkeeping performance of the year on Saturday night. And it was done in a Manchester United shirt.

Real Madrid and their president have missed their chance. And there's only one man to blame.

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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