Real Madrid will move for Manchester United’s David de Gea within days and believe signing him is a foregone conclusion, despite being unwilling to meet the Old Trafford club’s request for Karim Benzema as part of the deal.
Real have been waiting for De Gea to conclude his duties with the Spain national team, against Belarus on Sunday, before stepping up the momentum to secure his services. But with new manager Rafael Benitez not wanting to have both Casillas and de Gea on his hands, it has emerged that Real have agreed to pay Casillas to leave the club.
Seeing the club stalwart out of the door represents a first victory for Benitez, whose new employers have agreed to make up the difference between whatever contract Casillas can find next and what he would earn by staying. Casillas’ acknowledgement that his Madrid days are done came as a surprise. Benitez was of the belief when he arrived that that the goalkeeper would want to dig his heels in and hold on.
United want Benzema to form part of the de Gea transaction next week and manager Louis van Gaal is enthusiastic about bolstering his striking options in that way. But there are several impediments to the Frenchman moving in the opposite direction.
Foremost among them is the reluctance of Real president Florentino Perez to see the 27-year-old go. Perez has an emotional attachment to the 27-year-old, based on him being one of the five players he bought with a fanfare to the Bernabeu to mark his return as president in 2009. Perez views Benzema as ‘one of his own’ and that may outweigh the fact that the striker has finished the last two seasons unfit and unable to contribute fully.
Benzema would also only leave if asked to go, though United may benefit from their own particularly close historic relationship with the player’s agent Karim Djaziri, which goes back a number of years. Djaziri and Sir Alex Ferguson were very close – and remain in contact – and Djaziri has claimed in the past that he only club Benzema would leave Real for is United. Whether that has changed now that Ferguson has gone is unclear.
The complications over Benzema do not rule out the possibility of a Real player heading in United’s direction. United are as eager to sign Gareth Bale as they were in the summer before David Moyes first season, two years ago, when several of the club’s players joined the recruitment effort. Publicly, the line is that Bale stays put, though the prospects of him forming part of the transaction are – if remote - not entirely out of the question. United certainly have the financial muscle to make the package attractive enough.
Where Gea is concerned, United’s supplications have just not being enough to persuade him to stay. Two months ago, it appeared that United’s quiet overtures and vast contract offer had been enough to secure a further season of the goalkeeper’s services. But come the end of the season, with life in Manchester out of mind, the draw of Madrid appears to have been simply too strong.
United’s case to Benzema would be strengthened if, as seems possible, Benitez’s job man-managing Cristiano Ronaldo, who delivered an extraordinary 63 goals last season, includes trying to persuade him to operate at centre forward, rather than the wide role he prefers. That would render Benzema more surplus to requirement. If Ronaldo’s role is to remain on the flank, there would be less sense in selling Benzema, who started only five games in the last two months of the 2014/15 season.
United have failed to sign Benzema once before. Sir Alex Ferguson sanctioned a £35m offer to Lyons that matched Real Madrid's in the summer of 2009, only for the deal to fail because of the player's £200,000 wage demands. Instead, they signed Gabriel Obertan – another Djaziri client.
Independent News Service