Jesus Navas makes himself at home at Manchester City
Being reluctant to stray too far from home is a problem for a modern footballer and there was a time when it threatened the career development of Jesus Navas.
Mild panic attacks caused by being away from Seville caused him some six years ago to give up international football, yet now after his summer move, he hopes the current season will make him a hero at his new club Manchester City and will finish in Brazil for the World Cup finals.
It is a difficult subject, and one that he is not keen to talk about, stressing: "It's a long time ago now but the main thing is I'm over it, I've managed to conquer it. What I am concentrating on is enjoying my football. I have come here to enjoy myself and to win trophies. I love football and that has helped me get over it."
Counselling helped too after he had declined to go on a pre-season tour with Sevilla, opted out of the Spanish Under-21 team and reportedly turned down a move to Chelsea. The London club had been impressed, like many others, by his performances on the wing for Sevilla, not least in beating Middlesbrough to win the Uefa Cup. They retained that trophy in Glasgow the following season and then added two Spanish Cups, which convinced him that it was sensible to stay.
At 27, however, and with the club slipping into mid-table for two seasons running, it seemed time for the World Cup-winner to take the plunge. City, with their greater ambition and a clutch of Spaniards and Spanish speakers – not least the new manager Manuel Pellegrini –were a perfect fit.
"Coming here has coincided with a period in which Sevilla have not won any trophies," he said. "Football-wise it was a good moment for me to take up this challenge here. I didn't want to leave at the other times because we were winning trophies and things were going well.
"Having Pellegrini here also helped influence the decision. In Spain what people think of him is all very positive. He has worked very hard and you can see the fruits of his labours in various clubs. He has achieved things and [has done so] through playing a good brand of entertaining football."
Eyebrows were raised when it was announced that his older brother Marco, a right-back, was to join nearby Bury, for whom he has so far played 12 minutes in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy, but Jesus says, oddly: "I don't see much of him. He decided to come here about a month ago, whereas I was making my decision five months earlier. The two decisions were independent. I've got other people around me who can help, who speak Spanish."
Left out of the disappointing 0-0 draw at Stoke last weekend, he was recalled for the victory over Viktoria Plzen in midweek and could stay in the side against Manchester United today even if David Silva returns.
Samir Nasri's place could be at risk, for Navas, more than the medium-pace trundler James Milner, is the most genuine winger City have. "I think it's good to have different ways to break teams down," he said. "I can provide width and speed to get around the back. Like every player, I want to start more matches rather than be a substitute. I feel like I have the confidence of the coach but the next step has to be to really break through and become a regular. That is even more of an aim for me with the World Cup coming up. To do that I need a really strong year for City."
A 4-0 victory over Newcastle on the opening weekend suggested both he and the club would have it. Less convincing League performances against Cardiff, Hull and Stoke have followed, leaving the two Manchester clubs with identical records going into the 149th League derby.
By the time of the 150th in March we will know whether Navas really has found his home from home, but he can cement his popularity as early as this afternoon.
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