In 2015/2016 there was a lot of early debate about Kaylor Navas and the goalkeeping situation at Real Madrid. The club went on the hunt for a #1 in the form of Manchester United keeper David de Gea - but we all know how that story ended (who uses fax machines anyways?). King Keylor drowned out the noise and proved to his detractors that he was fully capable of being the number one keeper for the Royal Whites.
He did it with an exclamation point and had Madridistas saying “David de WHO?”
Let’s take a closer look at our number one keeper - who barring something wild will be first choice again this season.
#1 Keylor Navas
La Liga 2015/16
Min: 3060 (ranked 8th)
Shots: 383 (7th)
Saves: 95 (8th)
CS: 13 (T-4th)
W/D/L: 25/6/3 (2nd)
UEFA Champions League
Min: 1020 (ranked T-3rd)
Shots: 102 (17th)
Saves: 27 (15th)
CS: 9 (1st)
W/D/L: 7/3/1 (3 way T- 1st)
Who would have known that when Navas was signed from Levante in 2014/2015 (he made only 6 appearances that season) that the following season he would be given the #1 shirt and the job that goes with it. Having some big shoes to fill was no secret, but Keylor showed that he was more than up to the task. He credits Zidane and his coaching philosophy as part of what helped him reach the level of success he had last season.
"He has a clear footballing philosophy that we understand well and this helped us win the Champions League as we learned very quickly just what the coach wanted from us," he explained.
In the Champions League he led all goalkeepers with 9 Clean Sheets and helped guide Los Blancos to the promised land of another European title. He made saves that no one else could have made, even turning away PK’s with reckless abandon. Little did we know he had injured his Achilles, and for the most part was playing in pain.
He decided that it was best to have surgery at the end of the season, this meant that he would not be able to represent his home nation of Costa Rica in the Copa America Centenario. Back in his native Costa Rica he has become somewhat of an icon, something he’s very humble about.
"It is a privilege to be thought of in such a way, I always try to do my best and I try to be a good example for all the kids. I admire them and have a big commitment to them. I hope that in the future they can become great professionals."
He didn’t feature at all while the team toured the US with the International Champions Cup. Instead he trained on his own with goalkeeping coach Luis Lopes. They focused on his upper body keeping pressure off his left heel to help in the recovery. While surgery has corrected the problem, there is still the chance of re-aggravating it.
Los Blancos have a very capable back-up to pick up the slack in his absence if he does re-injure it. Navas was not match fit in time for the UEFA Super Cup - Kiko Casilla started instead.
What can we expect from King Keylor?
Solid goalkeeping. Seems pretty simple don’t it?
One thing Zidane demands is focus and Navas will have to buckle down on that this season. There were a few goals last season that had he been a bit more focused especially late in matches, they would have been stopped.
Will he be as good as he was last year?
I don’t think there will be much fall off from last season if any. It’ll be interesting to see how his surgically repaired Achilles holds up across multiple competitions and the travel involved. I’m not overly worried, but it could flair up and put him on the shelf. W definitely need to keep him healthy as he’s one of the main keys to the season.
Will he be ready for match day 1 against Real Sociedad? I’d say yes, but I say that with caution. If the team decides he needs more time, Casilla is match fit and ready to go.
#13 Kiko Casilla
La Liga 2015/2016
UEFA Champions League
One thing every club needs (and this is sometimes over-looked) is a solid backup, someone who can step in with little to no notice and play at a high level. Kiko Casilla is that guy. The 29 year-old Spanish keeper didn’t see a whole lot of minutes during the 2015/2016 campaign, but he made the most of the minutes he did get.
He picked up two starts in the Champions League where he performed well, picking up a couple wins and a clean sheet.
Because of the continuing rehabbing of Navas’ achillies surgery, Kiko was called on to start the UEFA Super Cup against Sevilla. It was a dream fulfilled as he hinted it would be before the match:
"I have dreamed since I was 14-years-old about playing a game like the Supercup final," Casilla said. "I really want the game to come now, to play as well as possible and to take the trophy. To play a game like this is something you dream about since you were young. But I must keep working hard now through the days to come."
What can we expect from Kiko Casilla?
Casilla would be a starting keeper on many other teams, especially in La Liga, but he chooses to be at Real Madrid, which we should all be happy about. Some clubs experience a drop off from #1 to #2; not so much with Real Madrid. Look for him to pick up early minutes in both the Copa del Rey and the group stages of the UEFA Champions League this season.