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No De Gea? No worries with Navas

It was meant to be David De Gea in goal at Espanyol this weekend but there should be no doubts over the commitment of Keylor Navas to Real Madrid.

Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Espanyol's Power8 Stadium is a curious stomping ground for Real Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas.

Last season, the Costa Rican produced a calamitous error that led to the hosts scoring a consolation goal in a 4-1 victory for Madrid. It mattered little and Barcelona clinched La Liga thanks to a 1-0 victory in the capital against Atletico Madrid.

Four months on and Navas is set to step out at the Cornella again, although he could have been pulling on the No.1 jersey for Manchester United this weekend had things turned out a little differently when the summer transfer window slammed shut a week ago.

The focus of that transfer debacle, which saw a late deal taking David De Gea to the Bernabeu and Navas in the other direction to Old Trafford collapse, has been on the Spain international with Navas only an after thought. Now that focus will turn back on the former Levante stopper for the time being as he looks set for a prolonged stint between the sticks this season.

Everyone was set for De Gea. A trip to face Espanyol was to provide an opportunity for the former Atletico man to make his debut for the white half of the Spanish capital. Kiko Casilla would return to his former club but only as back-up, as he has been throughout the season so far. It was to be De Gea's day.

How Navas reacts to the situation remains to be seen. The Spanish press say Madrid president Florentino Perez has apologised to Navas for the way things turned out but one of the star's of last summer's World Cup knew the day of De Gea's arrival was coming and perhaps the only surprise is that it didn't come this year.

Last year Navas faced the political minefield surrounding Iker Casillas but even last summer the talk was of De Gea. Still, last summer's recruit seemed happy to come and face the challenge of breaking those political boundaries and enjoy his time at arguably the biggest club on the planet. His smile on the day of his presentation at the Bernabeu after a stunning World Cup showing said it all.

That suggests the shot-stopper should slot back between the posts like a glove. Deep down he knows Madrid want to replace him with a player they believe to be the long-term successor for Casillas, domestically and internationally, but he's known that all along. At least now he will get the opportunity to be Madrid's first choice goalkeeper throughout the campaign - an opportunity that didn't look like coming at 11:59pm last Monday.

The De Gea saga has dragged on throughout the summer but Navas has stayed level-headed. Injury caused him to sit out of Costa Rica's summer matches and he returned to Spain with the positive words of coach Rafa Benitez ringing in his ears. With Casilla's arrival he headed back to show Benitez what he could do and he has won his coach over - he has started both La Liga matches so far this season and has not conceded a goal.

Not only that, it could be argued that he enjoyed his best game as a Madrid player in his last, and what was meant to be final, outing. He saved a penalty with the game already won but he also produced two good saves in the match to catch the eye. He looked set to be going out on a high but now Madrid could do with those kind of saves between now and the end of the campaign.

Navas did not convince last season but he didn't have the time to. When he did play he was handed minutes against La Liga's lesser teams, hardly having a touch of the ball and being a spectator for much of the match. In the games he was called into action he made a few big errors, looked edgy and rusty but the feeling was that the rust only shone because he was being handed regular minutes.

At Levante, he showed he can be one of, if not the, best goalkeepers in Spain. He took the award to prove that at the Liga awards ceremony thanks to his performances for the Valencia club in the 2013/14 season and backed it up in some fashion for his country in Brazil. Navas needed to play week-in, week-out, behind the same defence and know his place as a regular starter. This season he will get that.

He will get it knowing he will likely be moving on to pastures new but he will do it knowing it may be the last chance for him to win silverware with Madrid. He will also do it without the shadow of Casillas standing over him. There will be little political pressure, just a longer wait for his possible successor.

Some, including Perez, may have concerns over his mentality after what happened last week but on top of his drive to succeed with Madrid the Costa Rican will also have a drive for his future. Navas may still end up as De Gea's replacement in Manchester but with time now not an issue other clubs may also come calling. There is also the possibility of De Gea signing a new deal with United and Madrid counting on Navas again.

When the Costa Rican left the pitch after his error last May he probably didn't think he would return as Madrid's starting goalkeeper this season. Now he has the chance to prove that he is more than just an adequate back-up or second choice and he shouldn't disappoint.

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