LONDON • Vicente del Bosque, the Spain national team coach, has urged David de Gea to "be professional, prove what a good goalkeeper he is" and win back his place at Manchester United after the last-minute collapse of his long-anticipated move to Real Madrid.
The 24-year-old was excluded from United's team for the first four games of the season after informing his manager, Louis van Gaal, that he did not wish to play while the speculation rumbled on.
He had travelled to the Spanish capital on Monday expecting to join Rafael Benitez's team as part of a £29 million (S$63 million) move that involved Keylor Navas, the Costa Rica goalkeeper, moving in the opposite direction.
I want to go back to feeling important and happy. I want to find happiness.
JAVIER HERNANDEZ on his move to Bayer Leverkusen
Despite both players agreeing terms with their respective prospective employers, the requisite paperwork was not filed before the Spanish transfer deadline at midnight local time on Monday.
Both clubs have blamed the other for the deal falling apart, with Real suggesting United dallied in returning the terms of the sale. United suggested that Real had made "substantial" unforeseen changes to the deal at the last minute.
On Tuesday morning, Real retained some hope of the move going through, only to be told that the Spanish football league would not alter the rules - that "apply to everybody" - to make an exception for de Gea.
That has left the goalkeeper facing the prospect of returning to the Premier League club, where he has an uneasy relationship with both van Gaal and his goalkeeping coach Frans Hoek.
It is expected that Real might return with a substantially reduced offer in January.
Although de Gea was reportedly in good humour as he arrived at Las Rosas, Spain's training base, on Tuesday night, the situation is hardly ideal for del Bosque as he prepares his squad for next summer's European Championship.
In an interview with Onda Cero, the Spanish radio network, he expressed his hope that the farrago will not harm de Gea's chances of returning to van Gaal's team in the next five months.
He encouraged the goalkeeper to be "happy" as he remains at one of the world's biggest football clubs.
"The important thing is that David reacts," del Bosque said.
"He has to know what has happened, look to the future and be a good professional. I can imagine what he is going through - he has endured an episode that was not as he wanted and was not his idea of what should happen.
"We have to hope that David plays in Manchester, that he is active, that he shows what a good goalkeeper he is and we can continue to call him up.
"It is complicated for him but he should be happy to be with the national team and at Manchester and to know he has the chance in the future to go where he wishes.
"He knows he has to be professional and that he is in a great club. He has the respect of everyone here. He is going to be training and there is no reason he cannot play.
"He has a contract and the manager will decide who is his best bet, and if it is David, it is David."
So, de Gea is stuck with van Gaal for now. Whether the manager can make the goalkeeper feel loved again remains to be seen.
Van Gaal's decision not to consider de Gea for selection - while the transfer window remained open - means that he now faces a testing battle. He not only has to get his goalkeeper fit and refocused but also back on his side.
Listening to senior figures at Old Trafford talk about de Gea's incredible professionalism - in the dressing room before and after every game, always encouraging, always polite, always punctual - makes van Gaal's treatment of the player seem all the more perverse.
For sure, the manager will find his man-management and judgment under growing scrutiny in the coming weeks and months.
Javier Hernandez talked on Tuesday about wanting to feel "loved" again after completing a £7.3 million move to Bayer Leverkusen.
"I want to go back to feeling important and happy," the Mexico striker said.
Van Gaal had dismissed suggestions that he was a dictator when he showed up at Old Trafford last summer. "I'm democratic, not autocratic," the Dutchman said but his handling of numerous players leaves that open to question.
"Too harsh, too often" was one view of van Gaal put forward by a well-placed source on Tuesday.
THE TIMES, LONDON