FourFourTwo's 100 Best Football Players in the World 2017: No.22, David de Gea

It takes a special player to win Manchester United's Player of the Year award for three consecutive seasons – but then the Spaniard is deserving of such status

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Whether he is still at Old Trafford by luck or judgement is open to question, but there is no doubt that Manchester United have provided a platform for David de Gea to establish himself as a truly elite goalkeeper.

During a half-decade of wild flux at United, a constant has been the spider-like presence at the base of their team, repelling all but the truly unstoppable attempts into his net.

STATS insight

  • De Gea has the second-highest save percentage in the Premier League this season (84.3%)

Indeed, it’s possible that his team’s ailing fortunes have even aided De Gea’s development: his steep rate of season-on-season improvement surely has something to do with that fact that he has rarely been under-employed (notice how disproportionately few top-class keepers spend their formative years at elite clubs). 

The best goalkeepers all possess one of two traits: the ability to make the odd outrageous save, or the apparent inability to make a mistake. De Gea enjoys both, existing somewhere between resplendent and reliable; equal parts Schmeichel and Van der Sar.

Factor in an imposingly rangy frame, bulletproof confidence in coming for crosses and a neat, no-frills distribution repertoire, and you have a player who could reign as the world’s finest keeper for the next decade. Thank heavens for that administrative cock-up at Real Madrid. 

Highlight: The dazzling one-man show at the Emirates Stadium in December. His 14 saves made for a joint, single-game record since the inception of the Premier League and denied Arsenal what would, against a lesser keeper, have amounted to either a routine win or a rampant one. Instead, United left London cackling over their smash-and-grab 3-1 win, De Gea with his reputation enhanced yet further.

All insights provided by STATS – the pioneer of live sports data

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FourFourTwo's 100 Best Football Players in the World 2017