CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

Keylor Navas: Real Madrid's loss is PSG's Champions League gain

The former Real Madrid keeper is maintaining his staggering form in Europe and has the best returns from the group stage ahead of Ederson, Ter Stegen, Alisson and Oblak.

Keylor Navas haciendo una parada
REUTERS

Keylor Navas won three consecutive Champions League titles at Real Madrid and was widely lauded outside of the Bernabéu for his performances in that historic run. In Madrid, the Costa Rica keeper never fully managed to convince Florentino Pérez of his worth and was constantly undermined, firstly with the David de Gea debacle and latterly as the Real president scoured Europe for a more marketable stopper, eventually settling on Belgium international Thibaut Courtois.

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In one of the more surprising moves of last summer, Navas went to PSG with Alphonse Areola moving in the opposite direction on loan to offer competition for Courtois. But PSG’s quest for European glory may rest in the hands of Navas, who has maintained his impressive record in Europe’s elite club competition and outperformed not only Courtois, who hit a trough in the competition against Club Brugge, but also Manchester City’s Ederson, Barcelona’s Marc-Andre Ter Stegen, Liverpool’s Alisson and Atlético Madrid keeper Jan Oblak.

PSG have rarely had issues scoring in the Champions League but have found their Achilles heel at the back, where Manchester United last season ruthlessly exposed Thomas Tuchel’s back line when overturning a 2-0 deficit in the last 16. Navas, not Neymar, Kylian Mbappé, Ángel di María or any of PSG’s other attacking superstars, may just be the missing piece of the puzzle.

Navas the Champions League's top stopper again

In five group stage games, the 32-year-old kept four clean sheets and only conceded twice, both against his former club in the Bernabéu with Karim Benzema the author – a case perhaps of familiarity breeding an inviting net.

Otherwise, Navas was unbeaten throughout the preliminaries and shut out Real Madrid in the 3-0 victory at the Parc des Princes in what was surely his most satisfying performance for his new club to date. Meanwhile, Madrid conceded eight as they finished a distant second behind Madrid in Group A, meaning that Zinedine Zidane’s side will face a hypothetically tougher draw in the last 16.

It seems that while at one end the Champions League is Cristiano Ronaldo’s competition, at the other it belongs to Keylor Navas. Whoever PSG are paired with in the first knock-out stage, the Parisians will be reassured by the presence of Navas between the sticks as they seek to reach the quarter-finals for the first time since 2015-16, when Navas was en route to the first of his three European titles.