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Manchester City faithful can believe in Jesús Navas


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Whilst perhaps not the standout player on his competitive debut against Newcastle United, Jesus Navas showed glimpses of what he can offer as City romped to a 4-0 win.

He hugged the touchline, looking to be slipped in behind at every occasion, and linked up well with Pablo Zabaleta down the right. The partnership looked seamless and inside the opening three minutes they had twice carved the Newcastle defence open.

His positioning prevented Newcastle’s left midfielder Jonas Gutierrez, before he went off late in the first-half injured, bombing forward as the Argentine hung back aware of the potentially lethal Zabaleta, Navas combination.

Navas whipped in a series of dangerous set-pieces and crosses as the match wore on and as he warms to English life he’ll develop the confidence to attack his opposite number rather than simply knocking the ball back inside.

In the end City didn’t require the winger to create anything special as their opponents caused their own downfall. Newcastle left themselves open to wave after wave of City attack with a starting XI that included offensive trio Papiss Cisse, Yoan Gouffran and Hatem Ben Arfa and a stupid swing of Stephen Taylor’s arm just added to their near-impossible task.

For a long time Navas was a little gem hidden away in Spain, restricted of international appearances by crippling homesickness.

Prior to joining City he had spent his entire career at Sevilla, located just 20 miles from his hometown Los Palacios y Villafranca, refusing Spanish duty and pre-season trips.

He terrorised defenders at Sevilla but his panic attacks meant he wouldn’t travel to certain games and threatened to halt his progress.

But over the past few seasons he has been reintroduced to the international fold and now claims that, following extensive counselling, his panic attacks are behind him and he looked composed during his City debut.

In Navas the Premier League runners-up now have a player who can change a game with his pace and width. James Milner also possesses a fine delivery but can’t stretch defenders like Navas and if Pellegrini thought Scott Sinclair was up to the challenge then presumably the Spaniard would not be a City player.

Last season City’s midfielders floated around, probing with short passes, which allowed opposition defences to get bodies back and stay narrow, and the amount of joy Zabaleta enjoyed when getting forward from right back highlighted how an out and out winger could vastly improve City’s fortunes.

Pellegrini’s side contain two strikers prolific in the air in Eden Dzeko and new boy Alvaro Negredo and Navas can be the wide man they thrive off.

With Vincent Kompany hobbling off against Newcastle, the pressure is on City’s forwards to score plenty of goals as they inevitably become more open at the back without their influential leader. It’s crucial they start the season well to profit on any slip up from neighbours United who have a tricky run of opening fixtures.

One criticism that can be levelled at Navas is his lack of goals but if he can notch up a decent total of assists City will be serious contenders for the title.

And it’s not only City who will enjoy Navas’ talents if he can start producing consistently.

The Confederations Cup final defeat to Brazil highlighted the challenge Spain face in retaining their World Cup. In Navas they have the ideal option to mix it up and add an unfamiliar approach to their usual robotic passing game.

Heralding from the same generation as Xavi and Andres Iniesta has restricted Navas to fewer appearances than he perhaps deserves but in a World Cup year he can force himself into Vicente Del-Bosque’s plans.

And if Navas sets the Premier League alight he can prove there is still a place for an old-fashioned winger in the modern game.

Ben Snowball (@BenSnowball)

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