By now, every Madridista has learned of Keylor Navas’s transfer to Paris Saint-Germain. While emotions of sadness for his departure and gratitude for everything he had accomplished were expressed in Club Member and Peña circles, sports media elements followed through with a new wave of subjective attacks denouncing the Club’s decision. Once again, our goalkeeper became the political “match ball” used against the Board.
Unlike any other club in Europe, every decision by Real Madrid on player transfers and starting lineups gets politicized on the world stage. Ever since Don Florentino and the new Board took over in 2009, press elements have made it a mission to subjectively attack team personnel and perpetuate false narratives to turn public opinion against the Board. Two players who became pawns of this hatchet work were Iker Casillas and Keylor Navas.
During the last season under José Mourinho and first under Carlo Ancelotti, the press debate was focused on Iker Casillas vs Diego Lopez. Many in the media portrayed both managers as Board sellouts for choosing Lopez for more games and perpetuated Iker as the victim. It didn’t matter to them that Lopez was performing at a high level which helped keep the team in contention for the Champions League in 2013 and La Liga in 2014. The press’ favourite was Iker because of their close relationship with him and previous trophy wins in the past. In the end, Lopez was transferred out and Navas entered as Iker’s new backup.
After a disappointing 2015 season where Madridistas reached a boiling point with the goalkeeper saga, Iker moved to Porto, and Navas took over as the top starter. However, the Club saw an opportunity to poach 24-year-old David de Gea from Manchester United in exchange for only 20 million euros and Navas. Thanks to a fax machine snafu, the deal didn’t go through. Sadly, the press used this failed deal to run endless stories of how the club never wanted Navas at all. This is despite the fact that he continued as the top starter under Rafa Benitez in 2015 and Zinedine Zidane from 2016-2018.
With the arrival of Thibaut Courtois after the World Cup in Russia last year, these media elements drummed up the same tactics used for Iker to make Navas the new victim. Even though last season brought a treble of managers and substandard levels from almost all players, the false narratives of Board preferential treatment toward Courtois were perpetuated in daily editorials and nightly TV roundtable discussions.
As many in the public relations industry would agree, all public opinion is shaped by the reaction of the press. From Iker to Navas, the media used these players as a wedge to divide Madridismo in the stands of the Bernabéu and around the world. Despite these relentless efforts, Navas won 11 titles, became a beloved legend, and was sold for 3.5 million euros more than his price tag from Levante five years earlier. The Club came out on top as is the case most of the time. Courtois has big shoes to fill, but then again that comes with the territory. However at this moment, we should thank Keylor for all his hard work and professionalism. He was the perfect company man. ¡Pura vida, Hala Madrid y nada más!
Christian Paredes (@Xian_D_Paredes) is a Founding Member and former Chairman (2012-2016) of La Peña Madridista Sur de California (@RmSurCalifornia)