Real Madrid may regret their choice of actively pursuing De Gea, particularly if it results in Costa Rican Keylor Navas forcing an exit in search of more playing time.
Ever since Jose Mourinho decided to bench Iker Casillas, there has been an exhausting debate over which man Madrid should place between the sticks. Many Madridistas remained loyal to San Iker and protested against what they deemed to be a grave injustice against the Madrid legend.
However, few fans, even those who forced the exit of Mourinho at the time and the same ones who still advocate for Casillas’ place in the XI, would deny the simple truth – that the 34-year-old Spanish keeper has been experiencing a steady decline in performances.
A majority of Madridistas now see compatriot David De Gea as the rightful heir to Casillas’ throne. Having put in stellar performances for Manchester United and earning himself the Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year accolade for the second season in a row, De Gea is tipped as the man to depose Casillas both at club and at national level.
With De Gea, it seems clear that the Madrid hierarchy seeks to create a symbolic moment in Spanish football, where one goalkeeping legend passes down the gloves to a rising legend. Caught up in the glamour of such a potential moment, Madrid is overlooking a solid candidate for the shot-stopping ranks – Keylor Navas.
Navas was voted La Liga’s goalkeeper of the 2013/14 season by Goal.com ahead of Thibaut Courtois, and rightfully so. Exhibiting fascinating form throughout the 2013/14 season, Navas maintained 15 clean sheets for Levante, and went on to stun the world with his performances in the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
After narrowly edging Bayern out of the race for his signature, Madrid concluded a deal for Navas last summer for a fee reported to have been around €10m. As the season passed by, former Madrid coach Ancelotti continuously opted for club captain Iker Casillas, despite moments indicating that Navas should be given a chance.
Statistically, Navas seems to have a good argument to become the main man at Madrid. When comparing Navas’ breakthrough season with 2014/15 De Gea, Navas ranks more favourably in nearly every category, bar goals conceded and distribution accuracy. Navas’ Madrid statistics may however be of little use, considering that Keylor often faced the less intimidating rivals in what were considered to be ‘straightforward’ matches.
Still, the evidence suggests that the De Gea favouritism may be short-sighted. Keylor is not Spanish, and he surely lacks the marketability and glitz of the Madrid native De Gea. Rumours suggest that despite the continued links to other clubs, Casillas wants to stay put and fight for his place. With the imminent arrival of De Gea, Navas seems to be the odd man out.
Once again, Madrid President Florentino Pérez is in the position to place business related reasons over footballing ones. Let’s hope that this time he recognizes the talent of the current squad and avoids unnecessary signings in an attempt to boost Real Madrid’s global image in detriment to its footballing prowess.