Real Madrid eyes unhappy Manchester United goalkeeper David De Gea

Real Madrid have identified David de Gea as a potential long-term successor to Iker Casillas amid claims in Spain that the Manchester United goalkeeper is unhappy at Old Trafford and keen to return to La Liga.

De Gea, an £18.3m buy from Atletico Madrid in the summer of 2011, is likely to have to settle for place on the bench for United's Champions League tie against SC Braga at Old Trafford tonight.

The 21-year-old has yet to consolidate the No 1 jersey at United following a difficult start to life in the English game, having been signed as a youthful replacement for Edwin van der Sar following the Dutch goalkeeper's retirement at the end of the 2010-11 campaign.

The Spain U-21 'keeper was dropped by Alex Ferguson at the turn of the year following an unconvincing performance in a 3-2 Old Trafford defeat against Blackburn, and De Gea lost his place again at the start of this season when he was replaced by Anders Lindegaard in the wake of a poor performance against Fulham in August.

While Ferguson and United's goalkeeping coach, Eric Steele, remain convinced of De Gea's ability and long-term potential, Real have been made aware of the Madrid-born youngster's struggle to adapt to life in Manchester and the Premier League.

Suggestions in Spain that De Gea has informed his agent, Jorge Mendes, of his desire to return to Spanish football are unconfirmed, but Real are determined to recruit an emerging young goalkeeper to challenge Casillas at the Bernabeu.

Despite his difficulties at United, De Gea's reputation remains high in Spain, where he is expected to eventually replace the 31-year-old Casillas in the national team.