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The two sides of Keylor Navas

It just goes to show how as individuals we’re all different.

Malaga CF v Real Madrid CF - La Liga Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

In the past seven days we’ve seen the two sides of Keylor Navas.

The first, perfectly illustrated last week by the image of the bold Keylor tackling Enzo Zidane at head height in training; and the second in Málaga after Real Madrid were crowned champions of La Liga when he emerged from the dressing rooms with his head shaved. A tribute to “all the children around the world suffering in hospital”.

Both actions illustrate that footballers are actually real people; with feelings, thoughts and beliefs.

It can sometimes be hard to separate the person from the professional; but these two images show perfectly well how often this turns out to be the case.

As a goalkeeper, you expect Keylor to behave a bit differently. Without wanting to generalise too much, there’s a certain personality that goes hand in hand with goalkeeping. You need to be brave, and you need to be prepared to get to the ball first; whatever that may involve.

You need to be tough; both mentally and physically, and you know that any mistakes made are likely to end up in goals lost.

The strikers can miss chances up front but there’s no allowances made for errors at the other end of the field.

Keylor has had an up and down season so far and he’ll be the first to admit it. However, one thing about the current Real Madrid squad is their togetherness; and that will have helped him in the days where things didn’t quite go according to plan.

When soft goals are lost the first thing that takes a hit is the confidence; but it’s no secret that Sergio Ramos and Cristiano helped Keylor through that difficult period in the same way that they helped Iker in a similar situation a couple of seasons ago.

The tackle on Enzo last week sums up how goalkeepers often react. Frequently gentle and placid off the pitch they tend to undergo a personality transplant once the kit goes on and they get down to work.

Once the games or training starts, it’s as though they become different people.

Goalkeepers in match situations need to be dominant by nature; and the ability not to pull out of potentially or even downright dangerous situations comes down to personality; and this side of the game can’t be judged by their off-the-field presence.

It’s only when the going gets tough on the field that their deep-rooted personality traits become obvious; and that’s often what gives the players in front of them the confidence of knowing that the last line of defence is safe.

Keylor played through much of the previous season in pain; before finally undergoing an operation to address a troublesome Achilles tendon injury that had plagued him for several months.

Playing through the pain of a chronic injury is never an easy thing to do. As a goalkeeper Keylor had to make that sudden change from being relatively idle when the ball was in play at the other end of the field to suddenly having to make a sprint to close down an opposing forward.

Coming back into the side after a lengthy absence is never easy either; the rust can show during the first few games and is often highlighted by slightly misjudging situations and altered reaction times.

It can take a while for any player to return to the top of his game again; particularly the goalkeepers who don’t have the luxury of being allowed to make an honest mistake.

The other side of Keylor Navas, though, was the one we saw after the Málaga game; head newly shaved in recognition of children in hospital with cancer. Judging by how Keylor comes across in his dealings off the field, his action perfectly illustrates the man behind the number one jersey.

At Real Madrid, however, Keylor isn’t alone in this. Cristiano does more unseen charity work than he’s ever given credit for; like having the zig-zag pattern cut in his own hair to acknowledge a youngster who was being bullied as a result of an operation scar.

Earlier this season Isco dedicated a goal against Sporting Gíjón to a little eight-year-old girl; using sign language after he scored to acknowledge her. James Rodríguez is well known for his work with under-privileged children in his native Colombia. The list goes on.

When it comes to Real Madrid, though, we don’t get to read as much about that do we?

So when Keylor Navas emerged from the changing area at La Roseleda with his new shaven-headed look; he simply explained the reasons behind it and went on his way. Minimal fuss; no dramatism.

The change in the off-field persona the exact opposite of the one we had watched for the ninety minutes beforehand throwing himself around at people’s feet.

Campeones. On the field and off it.

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