Keylor Navas, who was up for Best Goalkeeper of the Brazil 2014 World Cup, has finally arrived in Madrid and signed the contract that will tie him to the Merengues for the next 6 years. His main goal is clear: to end, once and for all, the continuing debate about who should be Real Madrids goalkeeper.
It will be no easy feat to do so, but a man who only received two goals in the entire World Cup with his home country of Costa Rica, and who was also able to become a standout in La Liga defending the always complicated goal of humble Levante, may just be the right man for the job.
Things at Santiago Bernabeu have not been easy for goalkeepers since December 2012.
Back then, with Jose Mourinho at the helm, the team had seen La Liga slip away in the first two months of competition. To many, the problem was precisely Mourinho and the tight grip he viciously exercised over his squad, while others started to point fingers at individual players. Ozil, Ramos, Di Maria and, eventually, Iker Casillas, got systematically blamed for all of the issues the team was facing, but Mourinho –who took small measures against all these players– decided to make Casillas his scapegoat.
Convinced of the fact Iker was the spy within the locker room, the man who was leaking everything out to the press thus hurting the groups ability to surprise its opponents, Mourinho decided to give Antonio Adan –backup until then and without any real first division experience– the chance to prove he was ready for primetime.
Adan started against Celta de Vigo and had a horrendous performance, but Mourinho gave him another shot against Real Sociedad just a week later. Fate would have it that, on yet another mistake by the rookie, he would commit a penalty and get red carded. Casillas, hailed as never before by Bernabeu loyals, came out and helped his team turn around the 1-0 and beat the Basques 4-2.
When it seemed the worst was over and calm had been restored with the captain back in the starting role, Arbeloa kicked Casillas hand in the return match of the Copa del Rey quarterfinals, injuring him and keping him off the pitch for three months. Needless to say, those were perhaps the most crucial three months in the season, so Mourinho –who just weeks before had assured he chose Adan over Casillas to play against Celta de Vigo strictly due to performance issues– asked the club to sign another goalkeeper to cover the empty spot and Diego Lopez was brought in from Sevilla for 3.5 million euro.
Lopez surprised everyone in the matches against Barcelona in the Cup semis and, mostly, in the return leg of the Champions League quarter finals against Manchester United — arguably his best game as Real Madrid goalkeeper.
Mourinho and his minions were so efficient in moving the propaganda machinery that by the time Casillas was ready to get back in action the fan base of the team had already been fully divided: the Mourinhistas were pro-Diego and the antiMadridistas (as coined by Mourinho himself) were pro-Casillas.
The Portuguese kept Diego Lopez in goal until the end of the season and Ancelotti, perhaps still without a clear reason, also gave Lopez the starting spot in La Liga. Yet, he added a twist to the thickening plot giving Casillas the chance to start both in the Cup and the Champions League.
Obviously that situation was not sustainable for too long, Casillas had the fact that he won the Cup and Champions League going for him, but also his bad performances in the Lisbon final and World Cup going against him. Diego Lopez had been consistently ok at goal, but losing La Liga in the last month of competition did not help his case.
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Because of how convoluted this situation has become, Keylor Navas is seen as the long-term fix for the team at this point. The Tico goalkeeper has signed a six year deal and at 27, he will spend the best years of his career in the club.
The board is now deciding who will partner with Navas this season and all signs seem to point to Diego Lopez leaving the club. Casillas is the team captain, a huge legend in the club, and paying out his contract would be a lot more costly than doing so with Lopez.
The hope within the club is that Navas will erase any doubts about who is the most appropriate goalkeeper for Real Madrid, while also becoming the long-term choice for the team. Its now up to him to prove that his performances with Levante and Costa Rica can be replicated at a top notch institution like Real Madrid.