It’s not so long ago since Keylor Navas gave an interview in which he stated that while happy with his performances for Real Madrid in the Champions League, it can be hard to deliver when you are only playing once a month.
But what a difference a few weeks makes in football. Keylor was recalled to Real Madrid’s first team for the league fixture against Celta de Vigo last Saturday; keeping a clean sheet against the Galicians and strengthening his case for a regular slot between Real’s posts once again.
Perhaps significantly, it was also the first game back in charge for Zinedine Zidane. The returning coach immediately opted for Keylor over Thibaut Courtois and reignited an old arguement.
Not who should be first choice in Real Madrid’s goal; but how on earth can you keep all the goalkeepers at the club happy?
Zinedine Zidane has since stated that rotations will be the key to successfully managing Madrid for a second time. On returning to the club, the coach stressed that in addition to Keylor in goal, we can also expect to see Thibaut Courtois between the sticks in the weeks to come.
That’s not to mention son Luca Zidane as well. The squad depth is there, says Zidane senior; so expect him to utilise it fully.
And that, though, is where the problems lie if you are a goalkeeper. It’s a fact that it’s not so easy as a player to accept the rotation system since this means acknowledging that a certain amount of playing time will be lost.
Where goalkeepers are concerned, sitting on the bench doesn’t keep anyone happy.
Keylor is only one of many goalkeepers who have this problem. Think back to a few seasons ago when we had a similar situation with Iker Casillas.
After sustaining a hand injury in a Copa del Rey game against Valencia, Iker under José Mourinho quickly found himself playing second fiddle to former Sevilla goalkeeper Diego López -now of Espanyol- on his return to fitness.
When Mourinho was replaced by Carlo Ancelotti, it was more of the same. Despite regaining full fitness, Iker was still overlooked for the league fixtures with Diego López continuing to be the first choice.
Although Iker remained custodian for the Champions League and Copa del Rey games, it wasn’t an ideal situation and it was one which eventually backfired.
Iker ultimately lost his place in Spain’s national team when coach Vicente del Bosque decided that Iker’s form had slumped to such an extent that he handed the jersey to David de Gea instead.
Many people, though, thought that the damage to Iker’s career had been done long before then; and attribute his lack of playing time to the loss of form that followed.
There was no happy ending in store and the whole sorry tale finished up with Iker leaving the club to explore pastures new in Portugal.
But being benched weekly until the next European game or Copa del Rey match comes around is becoming a familiar tale for many goalkeepers, who like Iker, still find the rotational system difficult to deal with.
It’s fine when you’re in the team; but not so easy for the rest of the time.
Sadly it’s a story we’ve heard before. From having been first choice under Zinedine Zidane in the Frenchman’s previous reign; Keylor found that incoming coaches Julen Lopetugui and then Santiago Solari favoured Real’s summer signing Thibaut Courtois instead.
Although no one can fault the Belgian’s performances as the last line of defence behind Sergio Ramos et al., Zidane, as we know, makes his own decisions.
This time last year as we all remember, Zidane exerted his authority within the club and at the same time tested his unique relationship with president Florentino Pérez by blocking the incoming transfer of Kepa Arrizabalaga from Athletic Bilbao.
So it’s obvious that he has clearly-defined ideas about who plays where and when.
We’re likely to see the variation in team selection that we had last season under Zinedine Zidane once again. It’s been a feature of Zidane’s reign that there are virtually two different Real Madrid sides. One for the league programme and another for the cup campaigns.
The problem still, though, is how to keep everyone happy. I’m afraid I don’t have the answer. It’s a lot easier with the outfield players as there are obviously more opportunities for them to shine including adopting alternative roles and slotting into different positions.
The goalkeepers though; just want game time and no arguements.
So on that basis, is Zinedine Zidane able to keep his goalkeepers even remotely happy? Maybe so if they’re playing; but when they’re not it just seems like he’s facing an almost impossible task.