Keylor's sweet revenge on Real Madrid
Thibaut Courtois helped to facilitate the sweet revenge that former partner Keylor Navas enjoyed in Paris on Wednesday night.
Keylor Navas’ prayers – knees on the floor, arms held high to the sky – no longer protect the Real Madrid goal. And neither does Thibaut Courtois.
Amazon got it wrong: the story between the Madrid sticks that has unfolded in recent years would have made for a far better drama than the documentary about Sergio Ramos.
Since Jose Mourinho unleashed his anger at Iker Casillas almost seven years ago, the Madrid goal has been a cursed position. Navas was the latest victim. After being dropped at the Bernabéu, he sought new horizons in Paris and enjoyed sweet revenge in Parc des Princes on Wednesday night, keeping Madrid at zero without even staining his gloves.
Popular wisdom says that God punishes without sticks and stones. “Now it is clear who is number one,” Courtois stated back in June, a brash assertion to make while Navas was still his partner in goal. Three months on and the Belgian left Parc de Princes with the question marks hanging over him more than ever.
While Navas will always carry the label of the goalkeeper who won three consecutive Champions Leagues, Courtois has conceded 11 goals in his last four European games with Madrid. In Paris, he conceded the first goal at his near post and soon after the damning image circulated widely on social media: as Di María shoots, the Madrid keeper closed his eyes.
Navas: gone but not forgotten
“It's weird to walk out of the changing room to the tunnel and see them on the other side,” Navas admitted after the game. It also must have been strange for Real Madrid, who haven’t forgotten him.
Last Sunday, when Florentino Pérez uttered the Costa Rican keeper’s name at the club's Assembly, the audience broke into a spontaneous standing ovation.
"We are not seeing the brilliant Thibaut”
The result in Paris has not helped his successor win over Madridistas. On a day when the PSG had to leave the heavy artillery (Mbappé, Neymar and Cavani) in the stands, Courtois conceded three goals from the Parisian team’s five shots on target.
"We are not seeing the brilliant Thibaut. He has not yet released himself in Madrid nor is he the goalkeeper who gets you points when the team is suffering, as Ter Stegen did in Dortmund," Álvaro Benito would analyse later on Spanish radio.
The Madrid goalpost soap opera
The soap opera that is happening between the Madrid goalposts could eventually have more episodes than Dallas (which has 357, according to Wikipedia). However, in this story the shots are not fired at J. R., Courtois is taking them metaphorically.
Zidane is not comfortable discussing the never-ending goalkeeper debate. Yesterday he did what he could to protect his number one. "I will not point to anyone," was his blunt response to questions about the Belgian keeper’s performance in the post-match press conference.
Courtois himself gave his take on the events that led to the first goal, somewhat admitting fault. “On that first goal I was prepared for the centre and I didn't have time to react,” he explained in the mixed zone after the game.
The storm that currently hangs over Madrid’s keeper is in danger of becoming a hurricane. In the space of a week, he has to make the daunting trips to the Pizjuán (Sevilla) and the Metropolitano (Atlético)… surely that’s documentary material.
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