Of the positions Real Madrid needed to strengthen this summer, you’d be hard-pressed to find many observers who ranked goalkeeper as one of them. In Iker Casillas and Diego Lopez, Carlo Ancelotti already had more quality custodians than he could use to the full extent. If reports from Spain are to be believed, he’s about to have another one in Keylor Navas.
The Levante stopper caught the eye representing Costa Rica at the World Cup, his performances in helping Los Ticos to the quarter-finals confirming what those who closely follow La Liga had already realised – Les Granotes have a fine player. A fee of €10m will convince Levante to part with Navas, the rumour mill claims, but surely the Madrid high command could find a cheaper way of giving Ancelotti another headache.
Last year the Italian used Lopez in the league and Casillas in the cups – the Copa del Rey and the Champions League. It hasn’t been lost on the Madrid-based press, who worship the ground upon which San Iker walks, that Madrid were victorious in the two competitions for which Casillas kept goal and were off the pace in third when Lopez took the gloves. It’s an unfairly basic assessment of the situation and doesn’t reflect the quality of Lopez, who rarely let Ancelotti down.
And now a third goalkeeper will come into the mix. Madrid tried to offload Lopez, it was claimed, offering him to Monaco as part of the James Rodriguez deal, and rumours of a move to Napoli have long lingered. There’s also talk that Casillas has an agreement with president Florentino Perez that he can leave at the end of his contract next summer. The situation may be resolved in 12 months but that’s a long time to leave one and possibly two top-notch goalkeepers on the sidelines.
Ancelotti said while on Madrid’s tour of the United States that he hasn’t decided who will be his starting ‘keeper. The Italian, keeping his cards close to his chest, is presumably stuck between the three, having to weigh the experience and importance of captain Casillas against the good service of Lopez and the potential long-term gains of trusting in the younger Navas.
Casillas, at 33, could have years left at the highest level, although he was at fault for Atletico Madrid’s goal in the Champions League final and made costly errors for Spain in the World Cup. Lopez, meanwhile, appears a safe pair of hands – reliable but not capable of seemingly-impossible saves – and Navas lacks experience of the game in the deep end bar his summer exertions. They each have their positives, but each have their negatives as well.
Like so many things, this is all Jose Mourinho’s fault. It was he who first dumped Casillas for Lopez, falling out with the Madrid icon. Ancelotti rewarded Lopez’s good form by keeping him in the league side and kept Casillas sweet too, a masterful show of man-management. But how he will contend now Navas is in the picture too – and the affect the balancing act has on the rest of the squad – will be an intriguing part of the coming season.