[dropcap]A[/dropcap]fter nine games of the new La Liga season, Real Madrid sit on top of the pile as the only unbeaten side in the Spanish top flight.
Although Rafa Benítez continues to have to justify himself to the club’s fans and the national press, the capital city outfit are looking like the team to beat this year given that perennial foes Barcelona have not been at their consummate best consistently so far.
Madrid have scored the most goals in La Liga currently, 21, which will comes as little surprise given the calibre of their star-studded attacking line-up.
However, the fact that they have conceded the fewest goals in the division should also be commended.
Los Blancos have seen their goal breached only three times in nine games, which is made all the more pertinent given that Barca have only kept two clean sheets to date.
An unheralded and unlikely hero in Madrid’s lofty position on the table and miserly rearguard has been Keylor Navas, who has started the campaign in spectacular form.
Over the summer it appeared a matter of when rather than if David De Gea arrived at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu, with the Manchester United stopper being lined up as the long-term replacement for outbound Iker Casillas.
Navas will have been preparing himself for the continuation of being a back-up at Madrid, despite Casillas’ departure, before then being used in a pawn in a part-exchange deal as the Spaniards attempted to pry De Gea away from Old Trafford.
The now infamous bungling of the deal at the last minute between the respective sides was certainly more of a frustration for Madrid than United at the time, who have since seen De Gea sign a new contract and kept their Player of the Season from the last two campaigns.
Florentino Pérez and the powers that be at the Bernabéu meanwhile were seething with the failure to capture De Gea.
The former Atlético custodian was, and is seemingly, the perfect new posterboy to replace Casillas; locally-born, a future Spanish number one, a shot-stopper extraordinaire and possessing a reputation as one of Europe’s best in his position.
However, the Costa Rican has refused to be caught up in the sense of disappointment that the swap deal’s failure brought, instead putting in masterful performances on a near weekly basis since.
The 3-1 scoreline against Celta at the weekend was completely deceiving given the balance of the game, with the Balaídos hosts having the lion’s share of the chances, despite being reduced to ten men, but thwarted by an array of unbelievable Navas saves.
The 28-year-old has saved two penalties this season so far and the stats show that he has faced considerably more shots than any of the other goalkeepers in a team on top of Europe’s other big leagues.
The Spanish press, his team-mates and the opposition raved over Navas’ showing after the Celta victory, which is becoming a common occurrence.
As such, it is fair to state that Madrid’s unbeaten record and place at the top of the La Liga table currently would not be intact without the exploits of the superb Costa Rica international.
There is no doubting that De Gea is a top-class goalkeeper also and despite a new deal at Old Trafford, Madrid will surely have ambitions of another approach for the Spaniard by the end of the season.
Despite the perception that the Manchester United man’s acquisition would add another Galáctico to the Los Blancos squad, Navas is proving that he is fully worthy of the Madrid number one jersey and that the summer deal falling through has been a sizeable blessing in disguise.
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