David de Gea could use some allies right now.
The Manchester United goalkeeper’s peculiar limbo, after the move he had pushed for through most of 2015 and the proposed career with Real Madrid that seemed his destiny this summer, was frustrated by bureaucratic fumblings late in the transfer window.
That sort of setback would leave a less self-possessed person in a panicky search for new bearings.
Not De Gea, as his compatriots in the Spanish national squad have been dutifully testifying.
The Manchester United player – he remains that, to his disappointment – has the strength of character to overcome the blow, they say.
They have been with the young goalkeeper the past three days in Spain, preparing for their Euro 2016 qualifier against Slovakia today.
Koke, a former teammate of De Gea’s at Atletico Madrid, was among those who spoke of the cool-headedness that will ease him through the challenges ahead.
“He is calm and that’s the way he has always been,” Koke said. “He will train hard at United when he gets back.”
De Gea has been training well with Spain, by all accounts, but with what cannot help but be a narrowed view of his chances of claiming the No 1 position with his national team.
A De Gea who commanded his goal with Real Madrid, or with United during the next nine months, would be a strong candidate to be his country’s first choice between the posts by next summer, when Spain defend their European championship title in France.
But a De Gea who is not in the first XI of his club – and he was demoted from that role just ahead of the start of this season at United – cannot expect to have the automatic trust of Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque.
Indeed, right now the biggest winner emerging from the De Gea saga, the dominant story from transfer deadline day, is Iker Casillas.
There is an irony.
Casillas, who will captain Spain for the 100th time tomorrow, left Madrid in June, having served the club for more than a decade and a half, mostly with distinction.
His parting, after two difficult years in which certain coaches, notably Jose Mourinho, and some supporters detected a dropping off of his high standards, had created the vacancy at the Spanish club for a world-class keeper such as De Gea.
There is more irony. Spain has produced several exceptional goalkeepers this century.
Many of them – such as Victor Valdes, the gatherer of multiple honours while with Barcelona, or Pepe Reina, who has hopscotched between prestigious clubs in Spain, England, Italy and Germany, or AC Milan’s Diego Lopez – won just a handful of caps because Casillas owned the position.
De Gea will know how they felt. There is an argument that Casillas has had a somewhat charmed life as Spain’s No 1 in the two-and-a-half years since Mourinho dropped him for the Real Madrid team, ushering in a troubled period at his club.
He kept his national team place and watched as the competition from Valdes, who was badly injured in 2014, and Reina, who moved to Bavaria to be second-choice at Bayern Munich the same year, faded.
Casillas, who lifted the 2010 World Cup and the European championships of 2008 and 2012, survived a humiliating 2014 World Cup, too, and the nadir moment of his scrabbling around on all fours, slipping and sliding in his penalty area as Arjen Robben danced around him during a 5-1 win for the Netherlands.
Del Bosque is an instinctive loyalist, and Casillas has benefited more than any other Spain player from that quality in his manager.
The national coach is not blindly faithful, though, and he will hand the captain’s armband today to an altered Casillas, no longer of Madrid but an expatriate, starting afresh at Porto, playing his football in an inferior domestic league to Spain’s.
“I am very happy at Porto,” said Casillas, who has kept tidily so far for the Portuguese club.
At Spain training this week, he heard the sound of some nostalgia for him, a clutch of supporters chanting his name.
Practising with him was De Gea, the man who had anticipated the Spanish capital would by now be his home, and that he might have moved a significant step closer to ousting Casillas from the territory between the posts for the reigning European champions, the territory that Saint Iker, as he used to be known, has held an imperial grip on for most of this century.
Follow us on Twitter @NatSportUAE