When the agent Jorge Mendes promised Manchester United the unknown Portuguese 20-year-old Bebe would be a star and he proved anything but, the club reflected philosophically that for every Mendes failure there would be a success story next time around. That story is the Atletico Madrid goalkeeper David de Gea, also 20, whose £17m move to succeed Edwin van der Sar Mendes has brokered.
Opting for an inexperienced individual to replace a keeper twice his age constitutes a significant gamble. De Gea has played only 55 games for Atletico and has yet to win a cap for Spain. But Sir Alex Ferguson is convinced De Gea belongs in the impressive tradition of Spanish keepers, including Liverpool's Pepe Reina, whom the Scot also admires.
De Gea has suffered indecision in the past few weeks about whether the move is the right one so early in his career. Only in this, his second season, has he established himself as his club's No 1. But the rancorous atmosphere behind the scenes at Atletico, which led Sergio Aguero to announce his departure 48 hours ago, has made his mind up. De Gea may be unveiled as a United player as early as next Monday.
"We've been working on it [De Gea transfer] for quite a while. We identified him quite a while back as one we should go for," Ferguson told the club's official website after Gary Neville's testimonial.
"He's a young goalkeeper, very quick, good composure, presence and an outstanding replacement for Van der Sar.
"We were looking for the same type of qualities as Edwin, because the one great quality Edwin always had was his composure and organisational ability.
"With David De Gea, he is very similar that way."
De Gea made 45 appearances for Atletico this season, keeping 24 clean sheets.
He helped the capital club win the Europa League last term, although he is still to win his first senior cap for Spain.
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