As Real Madrid’s legendary goalkeeper Iker Casillas moves on from the club, a debate rages in Spain over who should replace the 34-year-old in goal. However, more complicated factors than talent alone may be at play, according to a noted Spanish soccer columnist.
Jesús Bengoechea of the soccer site La Galerna recently caused a stir when he said popular sports publications in the country like AS and Marca have unfairly criticized Costa Rican Keylor Navas because he’s not of Spanish origin. According to Bengoechea, prominent media members are actively pulling for Navas to not be Real Madrid’s next starting goalie.
“It’s outrageous the manner in which the media assumes, with complete naturalness, that the goalie to replace Iker at Real Madrid needs to be Spanish,” Bengoechea wrote in his post. “No one can clearly explain the reasons that drive this requisite, which is unacceptable from an ethical point of view.”
Real Madrid signed Navas to a six-year contract following his spectacular performance in the 2014 World Cup, in which he allowed just two goals – one on a penalty kick against Uruguay and the other when Costa Rica was down to 10 men against Greece.
“Madrid signed the best goalie of the last World Cup more than a year ago,” Bengoechea wrote. “But now it has to sign the best Spanish goalie of the moment because the press couldn’t accept that Iker’s replacement wouldn’t be a national product.”
Last week, Casillas signed with the Portuguese club Porto after Real Madrid’s management reportedly forced him to leave. Navas will likely have to battle for the starting job in goal with Spaniard David De Gea, who is expected to sign with Real Madrid this offseason.
In 2014 as a member of Levante, Navas won the best goalkeeper award in Spain’s La Liga. Real Madrid had to spend 10 million euros, around $11 million, just to buy out Navas’ contract from Levante.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article has been corrected to reflect that David De Gea does not currently play for Real Madrid.