With three Champions League titles in his trophy cabinet and legendary performances with Costa Rica, Keylor Navas could be enjoying a quiet World Cup farewell in Qatar unless, as so often in his career, he is required to vindicate himself once again.
The Tico goalkeeper, who turns 36 in December, has been relegated to the bench by new Paris SG coach Christophe Galtier, who settled the goalkeeping battle in favor of Italy’s Gianluigi Donnarumma.
It is not a strange situation for Navas, who has already experienced years of rumors about possible replacements at Real Madrid, even though he was the starter in three consecutive victories in the Champions League.
His height and footwork raised suspicions upon his arrival to all his European teams, but Navas always ended up removing any reservations they may gave had through hard work, consistency, reflexes and personality.
At the same time, he was the leader of the best generation of Costa Rican soccer, accompanied by pillars such as Oscar Duarte, Celso Borges, Brian Ruiz and Joel Campbell.
This group made Costa Rica the surprise and ‘matagigantes’ of Brazil-2014, going ahead of world champions England, Italy and Uruguay in the group stage and losing only on penalties to the Netherlands.
“It was an incredible championship that helped many of us to join great teams. We enjoyed it very much,” Navas recalled this week in statements to Radio Marca.
Just when they were considered written off, the old Tico guard gave the country one last opportunity to celebrate by qualifying for Qatar, their third World Cup in a row, recovering from a disastrous first half of CONCACAF qualifying.
Under the guidance of newcomer Luis Fernando Suarez, Costa Rica took 19 of the last 21 points and then sealed the ticket in the playoff against New Zealand.
The Central American squad relied on its defensive strength and stellar performances by Navas, conceding just one goal in the last six qualifying games.
Despite the inactivity in Paris, Suarez has the utmost confidence in his captain to withstand the onslaught of Spain, Germany and Japan’s forwards.
“I would have liked him to have played, but I know him and I know he has done things right and has prepared well,” the Colombian coach told Marca.
“Keylor is a warrior, a fighter, an example to follow for all his teammates. This World Cup is going to be very special for him and he is also going to want to prove a lot of things,” he added.
Costa Rica will begin its journey on Wednesday against Spain, a ‘close enemy’ for Navas, who played for a decade in that country guarding the goal of Albacete, Levante and Real Madrid.
In front of him this time he will not have Sergio Ramos, one of his best friends on the white team and now in Paris, of whom he said that, since Luis Enrique did not call him up, he would not mind if he was Costa Rican to come with him in Qatar.
With a thousand battles behind him and an unshakable faith in himself, Navas has no problem in conceding the advantage to Spain and Germany but sends a warning: “All matches have to be played”.