After a great World Cup 2014 campaign for “Los Ticos”, Costa Rican legend Keylor Navas was immediately bought by Florentino Perez and promptly spent his first season at Real Madrid on the bench. It looked as though he’d be a back-up for life.
Then, with the ousting of Iker Casillas, perhaps Navas thought it was his turn to step into the #1 shirt for Los Galacticos. However, the David De Gea transfer saga of this past summer showed Perez’s “shiny new toy” obsession and Keylor Navas was more than happy to make the move to Manchester in exchange, even sitting inside a private jet with his family on deadline day, waiting for the news of the transfer to be finalized. That news never came, and Keylor Navas admitted to being brought to tears, as his latest dream of a move away from Madrid was scuppered. How can you blame him when he was second choice to an under-performing Casillas after being signed for an outstanding World Cup, and then seeing the interest in De Gea before even having a chance to shine for his “new” club? The evidence was there to show that he was not valued as highly as Spanish players by Florentino Perez.
However, despite things not going his way, Navas – who found himself the club’s default #1 when the season started – stepped up his game and broke Iker Casillas’s clean sheet record in his first six matches of the new campaign. He has quietly but surely shown the entire footballing community that he is among the best shot stoppers in the modern game. His form has even seen him appear on the European Statistically Best XI for the season so far (WhoScored.com), and there are some remarkable videos of his training regiments. Keylor Navas deserves to be mentioned, and truly deserves to be honoured for keeping his head on his shoulders and being a true leader in an unforgiving environment, in which at times he has undoubtedly felt like the outcast.
From a personal standpoint I truly believe that Keyor Navas ranks in the same echelon as Manual Neuer (complaints to @Rishay_UTC) who has been alone in his position when considered for awards. The really amazing goalkeepers today are Neuer, Navas, De Gea, Courtois (arguable for some), Cech (still fine for his age). I will end that list here because to continue would simply be to name other goalkeepers. Navas has the strength to overcome the difficulty of his circumstance and be a true leader at Real Madrid, a club not known for having that “familial comfort” in the dressing room. From an international standpoint, Keylor Navas’ achievements are even more outstanding, and are in some ways reminiscent of Javier Hernandez’s move to Manchester United all those seasons ago.
Why I really appreciate Navas is because I can associate with his desire to succeed. There are many players who are naturally gifted with quick feet, perhaps decent fitness, or intelligence to adapt to different systems, but it is the players who have the mental strength that really make it to the top. Navas is the opposite of Angel Di Maria, who sulked his time away at Manchester United, and it is great to see people (from all walks of life) overcome their obstacles and learn to survive under hard circumstances. I throw my hat off to Keylor Navas for this reason. Florentino Perez has rewarded him with a new deal, but I wouldn’t be so sure that money can repair the damage that has already been done.