The 27-year-old winger created more chances from open play than any other La Liga player last season but off-the-field problems could hamper his Premier League career
By Ryan Benson
Late on Monday June 3, there would have been a collective sigh of relief from every left-back in La Liga as Sevilla confirmed prized asset and fan favourite Jesus Navas had agreed to join Manchester City.
The deal which sees Navas leave the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan is believed to be worth an initial €21 million before potentially rising to €25m, but how this Sevilla local boy will adapt to life at City is exceptionally difficult to foresee.
There is no question that the 27-year-old is good enough for the Premier League and Manchester City. The right winger has tormented defences in Spain and Europe for almost a decade after making his debut in November 2003.
|JESUS NAVAS' SEVILLA STATS
A product of Sevilla's revered academy, Navas will not arrive and try to dazzle opponents with a plethora of fancy flicks and tricks. Even as a teenager he was very mature on the field and stuck only to what was necessary, with his close ball control and startling pace more than enough to see him past opponents.
City fans should be particularly excited about the havoc Navas could inflict alongside Pablo Zabaleta. The Spaniard has always been at his best when playing just ahead of a competent full-back, and few right-backs in the world, let alone the Premier League, have been better than the Argentine in the past two seasons.
Navas and Dani Alves formed arguably the most entertaining right-sided partnership in Europe for several years at Sevilla and their link-up play was spellbinding to say the least. They sliced defences open for fun, while the winger was always willing and able to track back to act as cover.
However, for all of his undoubted ability, there is one thing hanging over his head: a past of psychological issues triggered by leaving his home town. In 2006 a proposed move to Chelsea fell through due to his chronic homesickness and severe anxiety attacks. He was also forced to put his international career on hold.
Little by little Navas began dealing with, and managing, his problem. Eventually he was deemed well enough to travel with Spain and he was a part of the squads that won the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012.
Regardless of his progression since 2009, leading sports psychologist and author Daniel Abrahams still thinks the player's past means he represents something of a risk to City.
He told Goal: "I have no doubts that he will do well. But it is a risk if someone has had these problems. It is a risk for Manchester City.
"Common triggers [for psychological issues] for footballers are poor performances or team-mates he doesn't get on with. If he starts off poorly, he will have to show a lot of mental strength.
"If he doesn't perform well they could replace him or he'll stay on the bench. Any of that kind of stress can trigger anxiety, mild depression or even severe depression."
Whether Navas fulfils his potential at City will hinge almost entirely on if he can prevent the demons of his past from resurfacing. If he succeeds in that, his strengths should trump his weaknesses, though he still has room for improvement.
Wingers and attacking midfielders should be chipping in with goals of their own. It is an expectation which speaks for itself, but City will be hard-pressed getting a significant return from Navas. Quite simply, he is an awful finisher.
The goals he does score are generally of the speculative and eye-opening variety, but they are far from common and this season he managed just one goal in 45 matches, with that solitary strike coming in the Copa del Rey against eventual winners Atletico Madrid.
Physically, the rapid wideman is very slight and easily pushed off the ball, but more and more players of that ilk are impressing in the Premier League, with David Silva, Juan Mata and Eden Hazard, for example, all far from the most imposing physical specimens.
If one was just to look at his quality as a footballer, there is nothing to suggest that Navas will be anything other than an instant hit and a complete success at City, but it is impossible to ignore the psychological issues which had such a big impact earlier in his career.
He will have plenty of support in terms of fellow Spaniards and ex-Liga stars, but living away from Sevilla will be a big deal for him.
It would be a travesty if a player as talented as Navas was only remembered for wearing amusingly baggy jerseys and missing his mother's cooking.
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