What does every single piece of silverware that Real Madrid have won since 2002/03 have in common? They were all obtained without needing to invest in a goalkeeper.
The past 13 seasons have brought four La Liga titles, two Copa del Reys, three Supercopa de Espanas, a Champions League, a UEFA Super Cup and a FIFA Club World Cup and all 12 of those trophies were secured with an academy product in goal. Iker Casillas was widely deemed to be past his best when contributing to the latter four of those successes too, yet not enough to derail them.
So if Real Madrid have conclusively proven that it is possible to win every prize worth winning without buying in a world-class goalkeeper, why are they suddenly so desperate to sign Manchester United’s David de Gea that they are supposedly willing to hand over outfield starters in exchange?
Casillas started Spain’s past three Euro 2016 qualifiers over the former Atletico Madrid shot-stopper – keeping clean sheets in the lot – and is far from ancient in goalkeeper years having turned 34 in May, while understudy Keylor Navas established himself as one of La Liga’s finest while at Levante.
However, reports suggest that Real have become so obsessed with Man United’s number one that they would ponder sacrificing first Gareth Bale – the player that they broke the transfer record to purchase in 2013 – and now a starting defender of ten campaigns, Sergio Ramos, to do business.
There is a reason why the record fee spent on a custodian (the £32.6 million that Juventus gave to Parma for Gianluigi Buffon) has remained the same for 14 years: top teams have consistently shown that they can fulfil their targets without blowing the budget on the latex-glove-wearing types.
Look back at the past ten Champions League-winning keepers and you will find that the costliest was recruited for £15.7 million, with the average outlay working out at £4.3 million per champion.
Man United were among those to demonstrate with Edwin van der Sar in 2007/08 that the cup with the big ears could be claimed with an inexpensive net-minder. The Dutchman even saved the Nicolas Anelka penalty that delivered them the trophy in shootout sudden death.
Just to drive home the point, van der Sar was sold by Juventus to Fulham the year that they paid so much for Buffon, and won one more Champions League in the next seven years than the Old Lady have managed in 14 years.
If Real eventually get their way with de Gea, it will present Man United with another opportunity to emphasise that you don’t necessarily need an eight-figure goalkeeper to triumph in the Champions League. They are [25.0] to be crowned champions of Europe for the fourth time in 2015/16.