Now you see him, now you don’t – Sevilla winger Jesus Navas is one of the fastest footballers on the planet.
What’s more is that speedy Gonzalez (that’s actually his last name!) is also gifted with exceptional technical ability – he’s as tricky and intelligent and has great finishing ability to compound his speed, making him a terrifying prospect for fullbacks.
For Sevilla, he is predominantly deployed on the flank as a traditional number 7 but he has such ability that he loves to float inside off the wing, often to devastating affect.
If you have a playmaker in the centre of midfield with good vision and passing ability to find him and the opposition is naïve enough to play a high defensive line, there is so much space for him exploit if he’d fed the right kind of through balls or over the top passes that it’s virtually game over.
There are so few players who can match his speed and acceleration – I would even hazard a guess that he’s faster than Antonio Valencia and Theo Walcott and, as Manchester United and Arsenal know all too well, that kind of physical superiority over the opinion can win a lot of games for the team.
The most important point is to make sure the team know how to capitalize on it – those cross-field early crosses to the wide-man that Paul Scholes has been so effective with over the years are ideally suited to the kind of player with Navas’ pace.
If the player hangs on the shoulder of the defender for 90 minutes, there are going to be opportunities for him to go early whilst remaining on side and, as I say, as soon as he’s off, it’s game over for the defender.
What’s more is the threat of that ‘game over’ scenario is a constant headache for the defender and subsequently the central areas are left unprotected more often – Walcott pulls wide and that created space in the middle for the likes of Santi Cazorla to operate in. Much the same story unfolds with Wayne Rooney when Valencia plays for United.
There is one big problem surrounding a move, Navas is said to suffer from homesickness, which caused Arsenal to shy off a move for him in the past with him reluctant to leave Spain.
But if Manchester City can solve this somehow – as they are reportedly attempting to – Premier League full-backs had better start praying now because this guy is one speedy Gonzalez you can’t take you’re eye off for even a hundredth of a second.