Keylor Navas or Thibaut Courtois in goals for Real Madrid? Lopetegui’s answer: “We’ve got magnificent solutions in goal and no matter what decision we take there’s no doubt we’ll get it right”. That’s how the coach sidestepped the goalkeeping question in his press conference ahead of the Champions League Roma game at the Bernabéu. And the final decision: Keylor Navas. The Real Madrid coach thus hands the starting spot back to the Costa Rican keeper, after putting him on the bench for the last two games (the 4-1 win over Leganés and the draw in San Mamés), and keeps the debate over who is Real Madrid’s number 1 very much alive. Keylor has played three times, letting in five and keeping one clean sheet, while Courtois has started twice and let in two, one against Leganés and one against Athletic.
Lopetegui's plan for the Real Madrid goalkeeper
Lopetegui: "Keylor es un luchador y está haciendo lo que esperamos que iba a hacer: luchar y competir”
On 6 September, on radio show El Larguero, Lopetegui admitted he had a plan for goalkeeping spot, but he wasn’t going to reveal it. He started the season with Keylor in goal for the European Super Cup against Atleti, but that was an easy decision to make… Courtois, who’d just signed wasn’t registered with Real Madrid for the competition.
LaLiga got underway and Lopetegui started sharing out the duties: the first two games for Keylor Navas (Getafe and Girona), the next two for Courtois (Leganés and Athletic). Nothing altered his ideas: not performances (Keylor was outstanding against Girona and was on the bench for the next match) nor internationals (Navas refused to join up with Costa Rica in a bid to hold onto his starting spot, but it was Courtois who was in goal for the next game, even though he had gone off with Belgium).
Champions League goalkeeper?
The doubt remained: what would Lopetegui do against Roma? Would Courtois get the nod? The outstanding keeper at the World Cup and the club’s big signing of the summer? Or would it be Keylor, the goalie who conquered the last three European Cups and who was chosen by UEFA as this year’s best goalkeeper?
In the end, Lopetegui has gone for the Costa Rican, which is likely a big clue as to how his system of rotations will work. If in the end Courtois becomes the regular starter in the League and Keylor plays in the Champions League, Lopetegui would be returning to the formula that Ancelotti used at Real Madrid in 2013-14. The Italian inherited a delicate situation over the goalkeeper, thanks to Mourinho, and in his first season the Italian opted for rotation: Diego López for domestic games and Casillas for the Champions League and the Cup (interestingly, Real Madrid would end up winning these two competitions).
Zidane's goalkeeper: Navas
The Galician left in the summer, Keylor Navas arrived and then Ancelotti decided to play Iker in LaLiga and the Champions League, and Navas in the Cup. Mourinho’s followers however continued to attack the captain, with the club ending up pushing him into leaving. Zidane thus found a much easier situation: Keylor was his goalkeeper. And he defended him to the point where, when Real Madrid were about to sign Kepa, Zidane put a stop to the deal, despite an agreement having already been reached.
But this summer Zidane left and the club returned to their idea of brining in another goalkeeper, ending up with the signing of Courtois, and opening up the debate again. Keylor, under contract until 2020, is not giving up his spot. "I talked to Lopetegui and he said he had confidence in me. All the years that I have been playing football I have never felt like an indisputable starter, that would be a mistake. You have to win the position every day, I always try to train 100%, "said the goalie at the gala where he was recognised as the best goalkeeper of the last edition of the Champions League. On Tuesday, Lopetegui praised Keylor’s attitude ("He's a fighter and he's doing what we hoped he would do, fight and compete") and today he gives him the reward of playing against Roma in his favourite competition. A decision, to rotate, which aims to please the goalkeeper who has lifted Real Madrid’s last three European Cups of Madrid, but adds yet more fuel to the debate...