The World Cup can be a blessing and a nightmare for transfers. If a club have someone on their shortlist, a good tournament can increase that player’s valuation dramatically, costing you more money. While should one of your own top players have a strong tournament, you may suddenly find yourself inundated with offers from other clubs, and the player’s head may be set on a move away.
However, sometimes during your search for a new player, you stumble upon a gem. Someone relatively unheard of with a cheap buyout clause, that showcases his true ability on the biggest stage in football. Keylor Navas is exactly that. Everyone expected the Costa Rica keeper to be collecting the ball from the back of his net every 10 minutes. But the 27-year-old has been in stunning form in Brazil, and has been arguably the goalkeeper of the tournament. Paolo Wanchope certainly believes that’s the case, while Costa Rica midfielder Celso Borges said: “He was born on Mars or Venus or something. He’s fantastic.”
The truth is, Navas had already enjoyed a terrific season with Levante in La Liga. Only four teams kept out less goals than 10th-placed Levante last campaign, as Navas rivalled Thibaut Courtois for a place in the league’s Team of the Season. So it wouldn’t have been too surprising to see him make a handful of saves during a disappointing tournament for Costa Rica. But what has happened has shocked everyone. The shot-stopper has been critical in the nation’s surprise route to the quarter-finals. In their knockout stage match against Greece, where Costa Rice won 5-3 on penalties after extra time finished level at 1-1, Navas saved seven of the eight shots on goal in the match, as well as the only missed penalty in the shootout.
It’s no surprise then that Navas is now being linked with both Arsenal and Liverpool ahead of a potential summer move to England. Two of the top four from last season are ready to offer Navas a chance to fight for a place to play in the Champions League next season. As choices go, it’s not a bad decision to have to make. The big question, is who to pick?
Liverpool had the better of seasons last campaign, finishing second just off from the top of the table. Simon Mignolet didn’t have the most convincing of first seasons with the Reds, making a handful of costly blunders. His error at the Etihad is one that Kopites might rue the most, as City picked up all three points against Liverpool. Mignolet flapped at Negredo’s shot and helped the ball into the net, in a match where Brendan Rodgers believes actually his team deserved to come away with a point. Those extra points City got, that Liverpool didn’t, were fairly crucial in the end. But a title isn’t lost during a match in December.
Mignolet hasn’t been as secure as Rodgers would have hoped after signing the Belgian for £9million last summer and one issue was that the 26-year-old was never rivalled for a starting place, because Pepe Reina was on loan at Napoli. Brad Jones was never realistically going to get a look in, and the only man who could have pushed Mignolet for a place was busy playing in Serie A. But with Reina back at Anfield for the time being, with no news on an impending transfer away from Merseyside, Mignolet may find himself having to fight for his position in front of the Kop. So if Reina isn’t going to be sold, is Navas even needed?
At the Emirates, Arsene Wenger has limited options for the number 1 shirt. Occupying that shirt is Wojciech Szczesny, who while isn’t regarded at as one of Europe’s best goalkeepers, produces reliable performances more often than not for the Gunners. His backup was Lukasz Fabianski, but the Pole has now been transferred to Swansea City ahead of the new season. And now Emiliano Viviano has returned to Palermo after his loan spell at the Emirates, Arsene Wenger has just one option to choose from for next season. So an injury to Szczesny, and the Gunners will be putting their faith in an Academy youngster.
Arsenal’s defensive record last season was fantastic at home. Wenger’s men only conceded 11 goals from 19 matches at the Emirates last campaign, and now might be the perfect time to arrive in London looking to make a name for yourself. With two top goalkeepers pushing for a place in the first team, the Gunners might have the the perfect defence to mount a challenge in both the Premier League and Champions League.
Should both clubs offer Navas the chance to play in the Premier League, it seems to be a smarter move to join the Gunners. With Arsenal comes stability. They may not have built a serious title charge for a few years, but they have been consistently around the top four, as well as performing well in the Champions League. Wenger would love to have another David Seaman in his side, a world recognised top keeper protecting the goal. Navas could either become that himself, or push Szczesny to do so.
With Liverpool comes a period of uncertainty, both positively and negatively. The Reds have excelled under Rodgers last season, jumping from 7th to a title push reaching the final day of the season. Next season is an exciting one for Kopites, anticipating great things in both the league and the Champions League. However, with the Suarez scandal now in full swing, even more doubts and questions are being raised over his future at Anfield.
The Reds saw, and benefited, from how Spurs struggled to cope with losing their star player next season. If Rodgers and Ian Ayre don’t get Liverpool’s transfer window right, the Merseysiders could be a long way away from their title push of last season. With Pepe Reina also possibly staying at Anfield, it seems that a move to Arsenal would benefit Navas much greater than living near Stanley Park.