The Costa Rican continues to show his quality despite the club’s long-term search for a replacement apparently nearing its conclusion
In a match that served as a good microcosm of his time as Real Madrid’s first-choice goalkeeper, Keylor Navas made the saves he needed to make and helped Los Blancos to another victory in the final match of another.tournament.
No, the ICC finale win over Roma didn’t carry anywhere near the importance of the three Champions League finals Navas won, but Tuesday’s win carried significance in that it might symbolize in the end of Navas’ time as Real Madrid’s starter in goal.
Thibaut Courtois’s looming move from Chelsea to Real Madrid feels more and more likely with each passing day. Ritescore reported on Tuesday that Chelsea are prepared to trigger Kepa Arrizabalaga’s €80 million (£71m/$92m) release clause, meaning that by the time the Spanish giants take the field next week in the UEFA Super Cup, Navas could find himself relegated to the bench, finally replaced after spending years as the Iker Casillas replacement nobody wanted, but that won title after title anyway.
It was, after all, the most famous fax. machine malfunction in Real Madrid transfer history that paved the way for Navas to become Real Madrid’s starter. David De Gea was.long seen as the inevitable heir to Casillas’ throne as Real Madrid starter. But a failed last-minute transfer bid, which died out purportedly at the hands of a faulty Manchester United fax machine, meant that Navas would have his chance as starter.
The Costa Rican star made the most of that opportunity, helping Madrid to the first of three Champions League titles the club would win in row with him manning the goal. He wasn’t just along for the ride either. Navas established himself as a big-game player and fan favorite, and as his trophy count grew. The calls to replace him grew quiet, at least among fans.
Unfortunately for Navas, Real Madrid never stopped wanting to upgrade. De Gea’s shadow continued to loom and just when it finally appeared as though the Spanish star would stay put at Manchester United, Real Madrid set its sights on another goalkeeper in Courtois.
It didn’t come as much of a surprise. After all, Navas endured one of his tougher seasons in goal, with the mistakes coming more frequently than before. But Navas had continued to find a way to deliver in the biggest of matches, as his form in the Champions League knock-out rounds showed.
Navas didn’t have much to do on Tuesday night, with his first-half stop of a good shot from Edin Dzeko serving as his big highlight. But it seemed fitting that he played the full match and helped his side to a win – he would have even had the clean sheet had some shoddy marking left Kevin Strootman unmarked at the six – before what will likely be a record-setting transfer for Courtois.
Real Madrid manager Julen Lopetegui once again refused to acknowledge the Courtois rumors when asked on Tuesday night, and defended Navas when asked about where he stands within the team.
“Keylor is our goalkeeper,” Lopetegui said after the match.
“He’s here. There is no other goalkeeper we can talk about. Keylor, Kiko (Casilla), Luca (Zidane) and (Andriy) Lunin are the ones I can speak about.”
He continued: “Keylor is phenomenal. He’s been phenomenal all preseason. He’s an extraordinary goalkeeper. He’s delighted to be with Real Madrid and we’re delighted to have him with us.”
Lopetegui’s praise sounded like that of a manager who won’t necessarily hand over the starting job to Courtois if the Belgian does make the move. Navas has earned the right to foot for his job, but given the investment expected to be made, it will be tough to see Navas holding off Courtois for long.
There will be no tears shed if Navas does wind up losing the job. After all, he watched on as a legend’s time at Real Madrid ended, backing up Casillas during his final campaign as starter, and this summer’s departure of Cristiano Ronaldo offered a clear reminder that Real Madrid are a club that stands still for no one.
Navas is still just 31 and even if he winds up spending the upcoming season as Courtois’ back-up, he should be able to generate transfer interest in the summer of 2019. There will be no shame in Navas having to move on to continue as a starter, just as there was no shame in Casillas moving to FC Porto.
No matter what happens from here on out, Navas has a place in Real Madrid history, with the three Champions League titles he helped win and the many big performances he delivered. It is that track record that makes it feel a bit unjust that he is being pushed aside, and it is that history that made Tuesday’s match feel like the end of an unlikely era in Real Madrid’s goal.