Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea was left bemused by a congratulatory message from the Spanish FA on his retirement from international duty – despite being yet to hang up his gloves.
The 32-year-old was left out of La Roja boss Luis Enrique’s final 26-man World Cup squad, with Unai Simon, Robert Sanchez and David Raya taken instead.
A veteran of 45 appearances for his country over six years, De Gea reportedly received a message of congratulations from Luis Rubiales, the head of the Spanish FA, over text.
David de Gea has been erroneously congratulated on his international retirement by Spain’s FA
Head of the Spanish FA Luis Rubiales sent De Gea congratulations for making the ‘decision’
The Man United keeper’s last appearance came in October 2020 against Ukraine
Journalist Jose Alvarez told Spanish outlet El Chiringuito: ‘De Gea has been a bit of a strange subject.
‘Suddenly he disappeared from the call ups a few months ago and Luis Enrique did call David to tell him he was not going to count on him. He told him that it was a technical decision. Obviously, David asked him what the reason was, but he was not given any further explanation.
‘A few days later David receives a message from (Luis) Rubiales, president of the Federation, who says “David I am glad that you have finally made the decision you have been thinking about. I have already been told that you are leaving the national team”.
‘To this David replies “Sorry? There is no renunciation of anything, who has told you that I renounce anything? The coach has told me that he is not going to count on me, but I have never renounced the national team, nor do I intend to do so, that is if I am called up”.
‘He was a bit surprised by the communication between Luis Enrique and Rubiales and the message that arrived from Rubiales afterwards.
‘The last year and a half De Gea has been very good, being a protagonist for Manchester United in almost every game and he was seen as being a part of the three in the national team.
De Gea’s positioning was criticised in that 1-0 Nations League defeat against Ukraine
Since Luis Enrique’s return to the Spain post De Gea has only made four appearances in goal
‘I do not say he should be a starter, but he believed he could contribute apart from experience. He was a bit surprised that Rubiales sent him the message saying that he was going to resign from the national team or that he had made the decision after thinking about it, never mind congratulations for taking the decision.’
De Gea had been a mainstay in the Spain national team since making his debut under World Cup-winning manager Vicente del Bosque in 2014, but he has since slipped out of favour under Enrique.
His last appearance between the sticks for his country came in an October 2020 clash against Ukraine, and he has been slowly slipping further and further down the pecking order since Enrique’s return.
Barcelona’s former treble-winning manager has put faith in Athletic Bilbao’s Unai Simon, who was handed the No 1 shirt for last summer’s delayed Euro 2020 competition.
Luis Enrique did not select De Gea as part of his 26-man Spain squad for the Qatar World Cup
Since then he had continued to be called up, but failed to make an appearance before he was dropped from the squad entirely in November 2021.
The decision to drop De Gea from his Qatar World Cup squad naturally created some backlash for Enrique, and the numbers behind the three goalkeepers selected do not necessarily justify his stance.
The Man United shot-stopper has conceded 20 goals in just 14 Premier League games this season – 23 in total – and with only five clean sheets in those 14 games he would not have brought any great form with him to the World Cup.
Despite being part of the Euro 2020 squad for Spain, De Gea was left on the bench throughout
However, Brentford’s Raya and Brighton’s Sanchez have both only managed four clean sheets in the top-flight, with the former conceding five more goals than De Gea and the latter only one fewer than his Man United counterpart.
Apparent No 1 Simon has at least outperformed the 32-year-old, with six clean sheets and only 14 goals conceded at the heart of a mean Bilbao defence that has earned them fourth place in LaLiga before the World Cup break.
But despite a resurgence in form for the Spaniard, and an apparent rebuttal of the idea of retirement, it remains to be seen whether De Gea can work his way back into Enrique’s good graces when his country already counted him out.
Spain No 1 Unai Simon is the only of the picked keepers with better numbers than De Gea
This month’s World Cup is the first tournament that De Gea will miss out on since making his senior Spain debut in 2014, having been the No 1 at both the previous World Cups and Euro 2016.
And there is equal uncertainty over his club future, with his current contract at Man United set to expire at the end of the season.
The Red Devils have the option of extending his deal by a further 12 months, but it is yet to be seen whether Erik ten Hag will continue to put faith in the shot-stopper, or look to bring in a new recruit as part of his ongoing rebuild at Old Trafford.
The 32-year-old’s club future is equally uncertain with his current contract up in summer 2023
The Qatar World Cup is the first tournament De Gea has not been part of since his 2014 debut