Manchester United will have to hand top earner David De Gea a bank-busting pay-off when he leads a huge keeper clear-out at Old Trafford in the summer.
De Gea, 30, is set to become surplus to requirements as manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer puts his faith in Dean Henderson as his No.1.
But the Spain keeper will still have two years left on his £350,000-a-week deal – and the Reds must cough up a large slice of that £36.4million contract to get him off the wage bill.
United are currently spending a staggering £570,000 a week on five senior goalkeepers – and the club’s American owners want that slashed.
Henderson sealed a five-year contract worth £100,000 a week last summer.
Sergio Romero, 34, is on £70,000 a week – yet has been allowed to run the last few months of his contract down in Argentina after the inexplicable decision was taken to block a proposed move to Everton last year.
Third-choice Lee Grant, 38, and Joel Pereira, 24, are on £30,000 a week and £20,000 a week respectively and will also become free agents at the end of the season.
Huddersfield are paying a percentage of Pereira’s salary after signing the former Portugal Under-21 star on loan.
Solving the De Gea conundrum will be near the top of United’s priorities.
They value him at £50m – but that is likely to be a prohibitive price in the aftermath of the pandemic.
He will also have to accept a huge cut on the wage deal that makes him the highest-paid player at Old Trafford. His rival Henderson, 24, was handed his new deal after an impressive season on loan at Sheffield United.
He expected to become Solskjaer’s first choice immediately, but has had to wait for his opportunity to shine in the Premier League after being used in European and domestic cup competitions.
When De Gea was given permission to return to Spain to be at the birth of his first child last month, Henderson stepped up.
He kept successive clean sheets against Crystal Palace, Manchester City and West Ham.
Although he was blamed for the last-minute goal that helped AC Milan claim a Europa League draw at Old Trafford, he played a key role in the 1-0 victory at the San Siro in the return as Solskjaer’s side booked their place in the quarter-finals.
De Gea and out-of-favour Phil Jones are the only members of the United squad who were part of the 2013 team that clinched the club’s last Premier League title.
De Gea was signed from Atletico Madrid for £18.9m in 2011 and has won FA Cup, League Cup and Europa League medals for the Reds. He saw a deadline day deal to take him to Real Madrid collapse in 2015 when the paperwork on a £29m transfer was not completed in time.
He was Spain’s No.1 at the time, but he was on the bench for three World Cup qualifiers last week as boss Luis Enrique went for Athletic Bilbao keeper Unai Simon.
United have previously been forced into handing out lucrative pay-offs, with striker Alexis Sanchez walking away with a £10m settlement last year .