London 2012

Getting a game with the Spain national team is a tricky business at present if you're a goalkeeper.

The status of Liverpool's Pepe Reina as one of the finest stoppers in the Premier League hasn't been enough to establish him as the Spain No.1.

And Victor Valdes' spectacular medal haul with Barcelona has not swayed Vicente del Bosque from his view that Real Madrid's Iker Casillas is the pick of the Spanish keepers.

Fascinating facts:

  • Signed by Manchester United for around £17 million, De Gea is the second-most expensive goalkeeper in history behind Gianluigi Buffon, who cost Juventus over £32 million in 2001
  • De Gea started his career aged 10 with Atletico Madrid and rose through the academy system before making his senior debut in 2009

With the path to full honours fraught with difficulties, it would take something special for somebody to even look like making the breakthrough. But David de Gea is a special goalkeeper.

Blessed with height and astonishing reflexes, as well as superior skills with the ball at his feet, the 21-year-old was earmarked for stardom from a young age.

And De Gea is used to success. He won the European Under-17 Championships with Spain in 2007 and lifted the Under-21 equivalent four years later.

At club level, he broke into the Atletico Madrid starting line-up as a teenager and had won the Europa League and the UEFA Super Cup before his 20th birthday.

So it wasn't a huge surprise when Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United came calling in the summer of 2011.

What followed was the first difficult period of the young Spaniard's career.

A series of errors saw some question the wisdom of a club as big as Manchester United putting their fortunes in the hands of such an inexperienced goalkeeper.

But De Gea bounced back from the criticism in emphatic style by playing a pivotal role as United surged to the top of the Premier League.

"He got a grip of it and stood up as a man," said Ferguson in April.

"He has shown fantastic improvement. We expected his ability to show and we are seeing that now."

With Reina and Valdes having their international opportunities stifled due to the pre-eminence of Casillas, there could have been a temptation to draft either man into the Olympic team as an over-age player instead.

But with De Gea the man in possession and improving fast, there will be no taking the gloves off the United keeper. And don't be surprised if he adds further silverware to his collection in London.

David de Gea

  • DOB: 1/11/90
  • Club: Manchester United
  • Position: Keeper