The Costa Rican has been under pressure as Real consider another move for the Man Utd goalkeeper, but he was crucial on Saturday
Keylor Navas is fighting for his Real Madrid future once again. The Central American has been below his best since undergoing an operation in the summer and Los Blancos are weighing up another move for David De Gea. But the 30-year-old showed his worth on Saturday.
Navas was on the verge of leaving Madrid to join Manchester United in the summer of 2015 with De Gea set to move the other way, but the paperwork was not filed in time and he ended up staying at the Santiago Bernabeu.
The Costa Rican later admitted he had cried in impotence at the situation and has always said how grateful he is at having a second chance. And his second season was a happy one as he ended up as a protagonist and also a Champions League winner.
In La Liga, he saved numerous points for Real too, but he has been unable to hit those same heights since an operation in the summer. And although he is highly rated by coach Zinedine Zidane and appreciated by his team-mates, it is well known that Madrid would like to bring in De Gea at some stage.
Keylor came under scrutiny as Madrid’s 40-match unbeaten run came to an end with defeat at Sevilla in January, but he was absolutely vital as Los Blancos beat Osasuna in Pamplona on Saturday night to move back above Barcelona at the top of La Liga.
Trips to El Sadar are often tricky due to the hostile nature of the stadium and the warm support of the home fans. However, this Osasuna team is the worst in La Liga and had picked up just 10 points from their 21 fixtures prior to this match. So Madrid were not expected to require a big performance from their goalkeeper.
But they needed it and got it. Navas could do little to prevent Sergio Leon’s leveller as he raced off his line but was beaten by a cool finish from the Osasuna forward. He did make two key saves from the same player, though, that would have brought the home side back into the game.
Those came either side of Isco’s goal which made it 2-1. Earlier, Cristiano Ronaldo had opened the scoring and Karim Benzema, despite missing an easy chance in the first half, won the ball back to help set up both of the first two Madrid strikes. And the player who replaced him, Lucas Vazquez, wrapped up the win in added time.
So while the scoreline may seem comfortable, it was nothing of the sort and Madrid will be happy to have negotiated this fixture with all three points in the bag. Interestingly, their last Liga win at El Sadar came in 2011-12, which was also the last time they won the title.
This victory keeps momentum going and following a period of two weeks without a competitive match after last weekend’s fixture at Celta Vigo was postponed due to storm damage at Balaidos, it was vital for Madrid to win and stay above Barcelona (who had provisionally moved top earlier on Saturday).
Isco’s goal was a positive in a good game for the Spain midfielder, while Ronaldo had his moments along with Benzema as Zidane’s three-man defence failed to entirely convince and Danilo was stretchered off with what looked like a bad injury.
The brightest spot of all, however, was the security offered by Navas. With question marks hanging over his future as the De Gea talk continues, the Costa Rican stepped up with some timely interventions once again. He is Madrid’s number one and he will not give up that privilege without a fight.