Keylor Navas: Who is the Costa Rica goalkeeper Arsenal are reportedly looking at?
The Costa Rica goalkeeper was the hero in the penalty shootout victory over Greece in the World Cup and here, we take a closer look at the goalkeeper turning heads all over Europe
As players squabble for their lucrative World Cup bonuses and team members fight amongst each other, Keylor Navas continues to go about his business in the Costa Rica goal with a quiet grace.
The 27-year-old put in another fine performance as Costa Rica beat Greece 5-3 on penalties, pulling off a magnificent stop to deny Theofanis Gekas in the shootout, as well as a string of superb saves throughout the 120 minutes of play.
The victory meant that Costa Rica qualified for the World Cup quarter-finals for the first time in their history, and having conceded just twice in four games, Navas is one of the key men at the forefront of the Latin American nation's shock success in the World Cup so far. But to him, their success is no surprise.
"We left our fear at home," he said after their triumph. "That is why we came through a group that had three former World Cup winners in it. We are not afraid of anyone."
Keylor Navas saves Theofanis Gekas' effort in the penalty shootout between Costa Rica and Greece in the World Cup second round
Born in San Isidro in his native Costa Rica, he got his big break when he left Saprissa to join Albacete, a club plying their trade in the Spanish Segunda, in 2010. It didn't go quite as planned, however, with Albacete suffering relegation in his first season at the club.
Video: Costa Rica fans celebrate reaching quarter finals
After just one appearance against Athletic Bilbao, he eventually joined Levante on a permanent basis for just €150,000 (£120,000), but had to be patient in waiting for his chance in the first-team. First-choice keeper Gustavo Munua was ousted from the first-team and Navas grabbed his opportunity, starting all nine of the remaining games in the 2012/13 season under Juan Ignacio Martinez.
It soon became clear that he would be the number one choice for Levante coach Joaquin Caparros, who arrived in July last year, and he repaid the faith shown in him by his manager.
Standing at 6ft with a slim frame, Navas is one of the smallest goalkeepers around, but he makes his presence felt in the penalty area. An agile, energetic stopper, Navas loves nothing more than a fingertip save for the cameras.
When a ball comes into the area, he's confident enough to claim it, and his defenders know when he's coming. His reflexes remain one of his best attributes, saving from point-blank on a number of occasions and always making the goal look incredibly small when one-on-one with an opponent. At 27 years of age, it would appear the best is yet to come, but how much better can it get?
Navas played in all but one of Levante's games in La Liga, and in terms of clean sheets, was only beaten by Atletico goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois to the Zamora Trophy. It was clear that this was a goalkeeper doing remarkable things for a club with such low expectations, and there were whispers that both Atletico Madrid and Arsenal were keeping tabs on his situation.
Keylor Navas was instrumental for Levante last season
He came to the World Cup in fine form after excelling in La Liga, and while various pundits tipped him to do well, Costa Rica - who's chances to win the tournament were as high as 2,500/1 - were not. Despite this, Navas remained confident of their progress.
"We’re going through,” he said in an interview with Gazzetto dello Sport prior to the tournament before adding, “Are Italy going to join us?”
The answer to that question, as we came to realise, would be "no".
After their shock 3-1 victory against Uruguay in their Group D opener, Costa Rica were becoming a serious threat to their rivals in the group. They pulled off another momentous scalp by condemning a much-fanced Italy side to a 1-0 defeat thanks to a Bryan Ruiz header.
But Navas was just as instrumental in goal, providing a confident and assured performance to deny the world-class talent that Italy have in abundance. He repeated a similar feat when Costa Rica's fate was already decided, keeping another clean sheet in the goalless draw with England.
With Navas' release clause set at just £6.5 million, it appears that Levante have no real chance of keeping him after such an impressive season. And with Atletico without a first-choice goalkeeper, the Vicente Calderon appears to be his most likely destination, although Arsenal are said to be interested too.
Nobody would deny that he deserves it. There is no sense of bravado or arrogance, as such, about this religious, humble man; what is clear is his belief in his ability and the idea that he is destined for success.
Given his current situation, it would appear that is not far away.
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