There was a symbolism to Wednesday’s Champions League clash between Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid. These were two giants of the European game who have somewhat lost their way over the past year or so. Are there two more volatile footballing arenas than the Parc des Princes and Santiago Bernabeu right now?
There were subplots everywhere, but perhaps the most compelling one concerned the two mean in goals. Of course, until a few weeks ago Keylor Navas was a Real Madrid player. The Costa Rican won three Champions League titles during his time in the Spanish capital, but lost his starting place to Thibaut Courtois after the Belgian’s arrival last summer.
Navas was subsequently sold to PSG in the final few days of the summer transfer window and started against his former team on Wednesday night. The Costa Rican must have drawn great satisfaction from the clean sheet he kept and the emphatic 3-0 win he helped his team to.
On the flip side, Courtois looked shaky throughout. There were no glaring errors from the Belgian, but he might have done a little more to stop both of Angel di Maria’s two goals and looked unsure of himself from the first whistle until the last. This wasn’t an isolated case either. Courtois has been suspect for a number of months.
Courtois has now gone 15 games in all competitions without keeping a clean sheet. Real Madrid’s defence looked much steadier with Navas behind them, but that didn’t stop the Costa Rican from being cast aside. The suspicion is that Florentino Perez never saw Navas as befitting of a club of Real Madrid’s size and stature.
Alphonse Areola headed in the opposite direction to Navas in the summer window and so Zinedine Zidane does have another option between the sticks. Could Areola be given an early chance to prove himself at his new club? The poor form of Courtois might well be opening the door for the 26-year-old.
Despite being signed for over £30 million, Courtois has never really proved himself at Real Madrid. The Belgian certainly isn’t to blame for the issues his team have faced over the past year, but his influence at the back hasn’t done anything to help steady the ship. Zidane could be forgiven for looking at his new second choice goalkeeper and pondering if he might give him something Navas took when he left for France.
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