Real Madrid set to raid Chelsea or Manchester United for Courtois or De Gea
When Keylor Navas desperately tried to gain control of the ball but ultimately bundled it into his own net, you felt like another nail had been hammered into his coffin at Real Madrid. There's a nervousness about Navas this season which makes him less dependable, less important, and that's the worst thing that can happen when you're not one of the 'superstars' at a club the size of Real Madrid.
The harsh reality is Madrid never wanted Navas to lead the line for them. They had put all their eggs in the basket of getting the David De Gea deal done on deadline day. Perhaps due to sheer arrogance there was no backup plan, no thought given to 'what happens if we mess this up?' or anything. This is Real Madrid, we sign who we want, when we want – at whatever price the selling club wants.
And as we all know part of the deal hinged on Navas going the other way. This wasn't a problem as the Costa Rican international had no intentions of remaining as backup to De Gea and the chance to play for Manchester United was one he'd wilfully grasp with both hands. Sadly for both goalkeepers, who had agreed personal terms with their prospective new clubs, human error caused the swap deal to be scrapped in the dying seconds of the transfer window.
The aftermath saw a lot of finger pointing from the two clubs, each putting the failure to get the agreement over the line at the door of the other. Very little thought was directed towards the players themselves who were expecting to start their ventures at new clubs only to see administrative incompetence ruin those ideas.
Navas remained as Madrid's number one despite the club's best efforts to get him out of the door and De Gea returned to training, pretending to be happy at the thought of at least another year in England.
As it turned out United fans were obviously pleased to retain De Gea and were later rewarded when the Spaniard penned a new deal at the club, removing the chance he could leave for nothing in the summer. For Madrid it too had a happy ending as Navas performed better than expected, almost single-handedly keeping the opposition out on a number of occasions. Everyone was a winner!
However for Madrid, and in particular Florentino Perez, this wasn't how it was supposed to end. Navas' form during that season was good but it wasn't enough to heal the wounds of Perez missing out on his number one target. There was a plan in place, De Gea was going to become the new Iker Casillas and the goalkeeping situation would be solved for the next 10 years or so. It fell apart.
The transfer ban killed any hope Madrid had of reviving a deal for De Gea but with the decision to reduce it, the gloves are now well and truly off. You see, Perez is like a spoil child who isn't used to disappointment. It's like buying a new iPhone every six months because you can as opposed to out of necessity. Once he convinces himself about a transfer target, he simply needs to bring him to the club. It's what he does, it's what people expect of him.
There's a reason Madrid, and of course by that I mean Perez again, hate dealing with Tottenham Hotspur. And it isn't because of the lack of talent available but because Daniel Levy knows he can squeeze literally the entire budget out of Perez should he want one of his players. It's a weakness on the part of Perez, unable to be denied, so Levy willingly drags out negotiations knowing he will get everything he asks for before the window closes. It's probably also the reason Perez is weary of trying to sign Dele Alli just yet.
Keylor Navas' patchy form this season has only given Perez an excuse to search for a new goalkeeper but the truth is, that was always the idea going forward. Perez simply has to have that marquee player between the sticks to prove to himself that he can still do it. It's almost a personal challenge to bring a keeper in, ignoring the wishes of the coach or senior players, and all signs point to the Premier League being where Perez will do his shopping.
The obvious option would be to approach United again about De Gea. “It's a learning process that football gives you, tough moments where you need to mature and grow. Everyone who works at Manchester United respects me and tries to help and I'm very grateful to them.” Those were De Gea's words after his move to Madrid fell through.
The reality of the situation is that his wife lives in Madrid, he misses home and feels being a starter for Real Madrid would aid his chances of remaining Spain's number one for the foreseeable future. All of which I'm sure United fans can understand, just as they did back in 2015.
Not much has changed in that time apart from Jose Mourinho taking over. He might be opposed to losing his first choice goalkeeper but also knows, due to his relationship with Perez, that he could use Madrid's interest to pick a player or two from their squad to fill out his own. And let's face it, United are likely to be active spenders in the summer again and would have no issue in finding a new goalkeeper – although it's unlikely to be Navas this time around.
However there's another choice for Real Madrid in the form of Thibaut Courtois. The Chelsea stopper spent three seasons on loan at city rivals Atletico and that's where he met his Spanish girlfriend, who he also has a daughter with.
He's spent half of his Chelsea career in Spain and is known to want a return to the city to be with his family. Courtois' girlfriend recently enrolled their daughter into a Madrid school for next year so faces the prospect of being away from them more than usual, something he obviously doesn't want to happen.
Diego Costa was on COPE Radio a couple of nights ago where he freely admitted Courtois “likes Spain” and that he was a great goalkeeper and “Madrid need people like that” in their team. Costa mentioned the fact Courtois' family living out here was tough on the young Belgian – his daughter will only be two next summer. The same radio station earlier reported that everyone at Chelsea knew Courtois wanted to leave and he expected Real Madrid to bid for him.
When quizzed on his future last night he said he was focused on Chelsea right now, which makes sense, but I hardly see it as shooting down the rumours of a move to Madrid either. The fact he's yet to sign a new deal, the existing one ends in 2019, indicates that he is considering his next move and there's little Chelsea could do if Courtois' reasons for a transfer away are to be closer to his family.
Naturally the Real Madrid dressing room, led by Sergio Ramos, is publicly and privately backing Navas to get a new deal and remain at the club but the reality is he doesn't call the shots and that isn't what those above him have in mind.
The only question remains is whether they go for De Gea or Courtois. There's certainly unfinished business when it comes to De Gea, who was sold on the idea two years ago, but he's the more difficult of the two deals to pull off. The fact Courtois wants a return to Spain and isn't tied down to a long term contract might mean he's the most likely to end up back in Madrid.
Transfer windows have no fury like a Madrid president scorned.