Real Madrid entered Granada riding high after a six goal thumping of Espanyol last week and the party, more or less, continued in Andalusia. While Karim Benzema's opening goal gave Real Madrid a foundation and Luka Modric's sizzling strike in the dying minutes sealed Los Blancos's fate, Keylor Navas was the rock at the back all night long.
Although rumors of David De Gea joining the Spanish giants in the summer persist, Navas continues to show why Real Madrid don't need the Manchester United keeper. Yet again, Navas played a key part in Real Madrid's nail-biting victory over Granada. In fact, an argument could be made that without him, Los Vikingos would've dropped at least two points against Granada.
Navas impacted the game just 10 minutes in as he left his line to close down Peñaranda outside the box. Navas slid and put a foot to ball redirecting it deeper into the midfield. While Peñaranda stayed on his feet and received a forward pass from his teammate seconds later, he was ruled offsides. Adopting a Neuer-like role, Navas's decision proved to be spot on as he broke up what could've been a clear-cut goal scoring opportunity.
After Real Madrid took the lead through Benzema mid-way through the first half, Granada forced another top-class save from Navas just minutes into the second stanza. David Barral found an opportunity to leap and head a shot towards goal from the right side. He pummeled his header towards the far post forcing Navas to extend and parry the shot away from danger.
His presence between the sticks kept Real Madrid ahead for two-thirds of the match but his only so-called mistake came in the 60th minute. After Modric lost out on posession, thanks to the referee, in the midfield, Rubén Rochina galloped through Real Madrid's defense before feeding Youssef El-Arabi on the right. Navas emerged from the goal mouth to cut down El-Arabi's angle but left the net open. Navas's decision caused a bit of confusion with his central defender Rafael Varane who should've been able to squash El-Arabi's goal scoring threat.
However, Navas fully made-up for his goalkeeping error 13 minutes later as Isaac Success found himself in on goal, nine yards out. Again, Navas left his line and went to ground, swiping at the ball which was no more than a few inches from Success's feet. While the Nigerian went to ground and stadium exploded roaring for a penalty, replays highlighted a world-class save from the Costa Rican.
Surprising? Not at all.
Navas has been the anchor of Real Madrid's defense thus far but yet there's still a buzz that De Gea will replace the Central American keeper in the offseason. There's no doubt De Gea is one of the best in the world but statistically speaking, Navas trumps the Spaniard statistically in the same amount of minutes played this season. While variables exist, per, Squawka, Navas holds a better saves per goal, goals conceded and distribution accuracy rating than the Premier League keeper. He showcases these abilities week-in-week-out and the match against Granada was just another reason he deserves to be a cornerstone in the side going forward.