Keylor Navas is Costa Rica’s most famous soccer player

EThere was a time when has Keylor Navas Drawn lines on the wall – to see if he’s grown. The result was mostly disappointing for him. The strokes hardly differed from each other in height, his body did not want and did not want to grow. At least not as quickly as Navas would have liked. Being tall was important to him. He wanted to be a goalkeeper, and that required a certain height. That’s what the coaches told him and preferred to put bigger guys in goal.

During this time, Navas acquired an important quality that would be very useful in his future life: patience. He didn’t complain, he didn’t quarrel, neither with the world nor with fate. He just kept going until his time came. Navas often experienced moments like in his childhood, but they no longer bothered him. He already knew that. Eventually it would be his turn and things would work out in his favor.

This has happened many times over the past 20 years. Keylor Navas, now 35 years old and 1.83 meters tall, has become the most successful and well-known football player ever Costa Rica has produced so far. On Thursday, in the decisive group game against Germany (20.00 CET, in FAZ live ticker for the World Cup, on ARD and on MagentaTV) it will depend on him, the captain. On his reflexes, his charisma, his goalkeeping. There is a lot at stake for both teams, both can still reach the round of 16. Costa Rica even has the better starting position. Under certain circumstances, a draw could be enough to advance to the next round. Namely when Spain defeats Japan in the parallel game.

Three Champions League wins with Real

Navas has contested a number of finals during his career – and won most of them. Just like you usually win when you play for the biggest clubs in the world. With real Madrid he won the Champions League three times in a row, with his current club Paris St.Germain he was French champion and cup winner. It was not foreseeable, Navas was always underestimated. At times he was as far away from a regular place at Real Madrid as Costa Rica is from a successful ice hockey team.

He left his home country at the age of 23. In Spain he was hired by the then second division club Albacete Balompié, after a year he moved to UD Levante in the Primera División. There he had to wait again, he sat on the bench for two years before he could show what an outstanding goalkeeper he is. At Levante, they still remember his obsession with detail. The employees had to organize masses of video cassettes and DVDs every Monday. Navas prepared for the coming opponent with a conscientiousness bordering on madness. He studied shot directions, approach behavior, penalties – he left nothing to chance. He wanted to be ready to take his chance.

One season as a first-choice goalkeeper was enough to be named Spain’s best goalkeeper in the 2013/14 season. He has now been signed by Real Madrid, the World Cup hero who had recently reached the quarter-finals of the tournament in Brazil with Costa Rica. But only as number two behind Iker Casillas. Again it was time to wait. However, Casillas soon left the club and once Navas was allowed to play, he wouldn’t let anyone past. He always dismissed the constant rumors about other possible goalkeepers. “God has a plan, only He knows what’s going to happen,” Navas often said.

“Keylor is always ready”

Coming from a poorer, rural region, he was raised religiously. Before every kick-off, he gets on his knees and raises his hands to the sky for a short prayer. He was practicing charity when, in March, he filled his in-house cinema with beds and took in 30 people from Ukraine who had fled the war in their homeland. He always begins interviews after the game is over with a thank you to God. They liked that in conservative Madrid. And he liked Madrid. But after the 2018 World Cup, the Belgian Thibaut Courtois came, a year later Navas had to go.

He moved to Paris Saint Germain but lost his regular place to Italian Gianluigi Donnarumma in the summer. In Costa Rica this was an issue before the World Cup, but it was not seen as a problem. “Keylor is always ready when he comes to the national team. He’s always the happiest and the one who gets the most respect,” said coach Luis Fernando Suarez.

This not only applies to the selection, but also in the club. Navas’ demotion to number two is said to have met with little approval in Paris, especially among the Spanish-speaking faction around Lionel Messi and Sergio Ramos. He has had a deep friendship with Ramos for the days they spent together at Real Madrid. Both share a passion for horses, run expensive stud farms where they breed noble Andalusians. Ramos is not at this World Cup for Spain. He can’t help Costa Rica against Japan. Nor does he need it. Navas has never relied on outside help.

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