Donnarumma, Lloris, Hart top list of potential Navas replacements at Real
Keylor Navas has been in the spotlight this week and not for reasons he will enjoy.
The Real Madrid keeper's blunder against Real Betis, when he conspired to scoop a tame shot from Antonio Sanabria into his own net, added further fuel to the fire concerning his position at the club.
After mistakes against Borussia Dortmund, Valencia, Sevilla and a suicidal effort to halt Kevin Prince-Boateng's progress 10 yards outside his area to gift Las Palmas a 3-1 lead two weeks ago, Navas' standing at the Bernabeu is at the level of the turf he has spent much of this season sprawled on staring grimly into his own net.
Real Madrid's transfer ban will expire in the summer and Navas has until then to exert his grip on the No. 1 shirt for 2017-18.
It may already be too late. Florentino Perez will be stroking the company cheque book as though it were Blofeld's cat at the prospect of global domination but there are few obvious areas where he can be afforded the opportunity to spend. Outfield Galactico targets will prove too costly -- Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang may fetch nine figures if and when he leaves Dortmund -- and Karim Benzema won't be sacrificed while he remains the right side of 30.
A new central defender will be needed if Pepe leaves and some genuine competition for the full-back positions would be a novelty but it will be difficult to improve on Madrid's current squad, except perhaps with a statement goalkeeper signing. Interminable links in the Spanish press with David De Gea and Thibaut Courtois are logical but probably now past their sell-by date.
Perez is unlikely to risk further fax machine-based humiliation at the hands of Manchester United while the Belgium international stated this week that he is quite happy at Chelsea. In any case, both Premier League clubs have vast financial resources, no desire to sell and even less to roll over and be tickled by the Real president, who lost out on Paul Pogba and N'Golo Kante to the same opposition last season.
Not a noted pragmatist, Perez may nonetheless have to readjust his sights if he decides to call Navas' number. Here are five possible targets.
1. Gianluigi Donnarumma (AC Milan)
The successor to Gianluigi Buffon for the Azzurri when the Juve keeper eventually retires and better than Dino Zoff in the Italy great's own words, Donnarumma has all the attributes to join both as one of his country's most celebrated stoppers.
At just 18, he has made 62 appearances for Milan and won two senior Italy caps and while he will command a transfer fee in excess of the €53 million Juve paid Parma to make Buffon the most expensive keeper in history in 2001, Milan would be mad to sell him to the serial Scudetto winners as the veteran's heir in Turin.
A transfer outside of Serie A seems more probable and if Donnarumma enjoys Buffon's longevity he could be at the Bernabeu until 2038. That's quite the long-term investment.
2. Hugo Lloris (Tottenham Hotspur)
The France keeper signed a new contract at White Hart Lane last December but Real Madrid know better than most that Daniel Levy will sell at the right price. For a keeper who will be 31 before the end of the year, €25-30m would probably make Levy sit up and if Spurs reactivate their interest in Isco both sides could come out with change this summer.
The lure of working under Zinedine Zidane and competing regularly in the latter stages of the Champions League may also sway Lloris, who has a threadbare medal haul for a keeper of his calibre.
3. Joe Hart (Torino, on loan from Man City)
Hart ticks a few boxes from Real's point of view. He remains an excellent keeper and now has experience of a European league while Manchester City are likely to be in selling mood when his loan deal ends.
Hart is equally unlikely to welcome a reunion with Pep Guardiola and the price tag on England's No. 1 could be as low as €10-15m. For a keeper with 69 international caps and over 400 elite-level club games under his belt that's not bad business.
4. Ederson Moraes (Benfica)
Brazil does not enjoy a reputation as a production line for goalkeeping talent but Ederson has the potential to break that mould. The under-23 international has kept 19 clean sheets in all competitions this season and conceded just 23 times. Four of those were in a two-leg mismatch against Juventus in the Champions League last 16.
There is the crux: Ederson is a keeper punching below his weight at Benfica and could thrive with a step up. A price tag in the region of €10-15m may prove a bargain for a very promising young keeper.
5. Sergio Rico (Sevilla)
Rico has finally made the Sevilla sticks his personal domain after outlasting Andres Palop, Beto, Mariano Barbosa, Javi Varas and current number two David Soria during his climb through the ranks. Still just 23, Rico was third-choice keeper at Euro 2016 behind De Gea and Iker Casillas and already has 125 senior club appearances and two Europa League titles to his name.
This season he has kept 14 clean sheets, including five in the Champions League, and although his one senior international cap will push any potential fee up he could be a long-term fixture for Spain and a decent bet for Real Madrid.
Rob Train covers Real Madrid and the Spanish national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Cafc13Rob.