La Liga Player Profile- Jesus Navas, Sevilla FC.
The stand-out result from this week’s international friendlies was undoubtedly Spain’s convincing defeat of the French in Paris. First half goals from David Villa and Sergio ramos gave the European champions a comfortable victory, and further underlined their ominous World Cup credentials.
A quick glance at their squad for the game shows an almost unfair number of high class midfield players at their disposal. It could be said that La Roja have more than enough of their fair share of quality in the middle of the park with Xavi, Iniesta, Fabregas, Marcos Senna, Alonso, Silva and Mata, and now, joining this elite cast, is Jesus Navas. The Sevilla winger came on for the second half and was particularly impressive, giving Patrice Evra a torrid time, and looking every part the international class winger he had been earmarked to be many years ago. Despite having clocked up over 200 appearances for the Andalucian club, winning a Copa del Rey and two UEFA Cups, Navas has taken the scenic route towards representing his country. Unfortunately though, it’s a rare aversion to changes of scenery which has stalled the progress of his career up until this point. It is well-known that Navas has suffered from chronic homesickness and nervous anxiety about straying too far away from his beloved home province of Seville. It is a condition which has seen him pull out of various international and club tours and training camps, which seriously hindered his progression as one of Europe’s most promising talents.
Indeed it was a matter which got so bad that Navas announced his retirement from the Spanish set-up before he’d even gained a cap. Despite producing a series of lightning displays for Los Nervionenses, his fragile emotional state out of his comfort zone rendered him untenable for national service, and reportedly cost him a transfer to the Premier League with Chelsea in 2006. At the start of this season Navas indicated a willingness to conquer his fears in aid of resurrecting his International career. Now aged 24, he appears to have matured as a player and a person, and overcome his personal demons which have plagued him ever since he burst through Sevilla’s youth ranks as a nervous child. On the field he has already doubled his previous best goals return by striking ten times so far this term, form which has led to the invite from Vicente Del Bosque to be part of the Spain set-up working towards the World Cup. In truth, had it not been for his homesickness, this call-up could have come any time in the past five years. Sevilla have been a prominent side domestically and abroad, and Navas has been integral to their success. The club, first under Juande Ramos and since under Manolo Jimenez, have taken on a vibrant, attacking theme, with plenty of pace and width and a nose for goals. It is the ideal surroundings for a winger to flourish.
Operating as a genuine right-winger he is a throw-back to the old school, operating with chalk on his boots, he pins his ears back and commits full-backs. There are no airs and graces, nothing overly complicated and flamboyant about Navas’s modus operandi. Countless step-overs, and triple salchows are not part of his repertoire, instead preferring to simply drop the shoulder and dart at his target with pace, conviction and a desire to skin. Up until this season his goals tally was modest – he still averages only one goal in ten – but he makes up for this by supplying a stream of quality crosses for his strikers to feast upon. Year on year Navas is around the top of La Liga’s ‘assist’ charts, and it is no coincidence that Freddi Kanoute and Luis Fabiano have plundered almost 200 goals between them since 2005.
Sevilla and Navas started the 2009/10 season well, winning seven of their first eight games. After this fine start, Navas received the call to join his compatriots for the friendly double-header with Argentina and Austria in November. It was a call Navas now felt comfortable to take, and made his debut with a ten minute cameo against Diego Maradona’s Albiceleste in Madrid, before an impressive second 45 minutes in the 5-1 rout of Austria in Vienna. Small, but positive steps as he looks to secure a place in the final 23 for South Africa. Such is the form of Navas, he is now being linked with moves to Barcelona and Real Madrid. Indeed just this week Sergio Ramos has told the Spanish press that he would prefer to see his Spain team-mate at the Bernabeu, rather than long time Los Meringues target Franck Ribery. That talent has never been in question, the application has.
It is a strange concept to understand that in such a profession, one is limited by such a phobia. Yet it is a testament to Navas’s desire to succeed that he has managed to battle against these fears to, not only continue his career, but to progress to the point he may well be taking part in a huge global tournament, under intense scrutiny, many miles away from the little town of Los Palacios.
Name Jesus Navas
Age 24 (21 November, 1985)
Club level honours UEFA Cup 2006 & 2007, UEFA Super Cup 2006, Copa Del Rey 2006/7, Spanish Supercup 2007