Pressure mounts on Spain’s De Gea as Kepa waits in the wings


MADRID (Reuters) – Pressure is mounting on Spain goalkeeper David de Gea with fans and media calling for him to be dropped following a surprise 3-2 loss to Croatia in Thursday night’s Nations League meeting.

De Gea has been Spain’s number one since Euro 2016 but he has struggled to consistently replicate his impressive Manchester United club form and was criticised for not closing down Croatia forward Andrej Kramaric, who scored the opener in Zagreb.

“The Croat did what most people who have taken a shot at De Gea have done in the past year: found the back of the net,” Spanish soccer journalist Diego Torres wrote in El Pais.

Tomas Roncero of sports daily AS has been critical of De Gea since Spain’s disappointing last 16 exit at the World Cup in July and said it was time for a change.

“We all saw what happened at the World Cup and nothing’s changed,” Roncero wrote.

“He just stands there, he doesn’t come out of his goal for their first two – this is a guy who is two metres tall! He could have even pushed the ball away for a corner for the third instead of straight to their player.”

De Gea, 28, has been named in the Premier League Team of the Year for the last four seasons by his peers and is United’s reining player of the season but he, like others in the red half of Manchester, have struggled this season.

United are eighth in the table on 20 points, 12 behind leaders and rivals Manchester City, having conceded 21 goals in 12 Premier League games so far. Last season, De Gea conceded 28 times in 37 league appearances.

The dip in form comes as his international backup Kepa Arrizabalaga has made a strong start to his Chelsea career following a 80 million Euro ($90 million) transfer from Athletico Bilbao – a world record fee for a goalkeeper.

Kepa has conceding eight times in his first 12 Premier League appearances as Chelsea remain unbeaten in the league.

The 24-year-old has made two appearances for Spain, the last coming in a 4-1 win over Wales last month. Spain host Bosnia in a friendly on Sunday.

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