Few players mean as much to a club as Jesús Navas does to Sevilla.
The links are so strong that the 34-year-old Navas already has a stadium named after him at the club’s training center in Seville.
“Navas is part of Sevilla’s history,” sporting director Ramón “Monchi” Rodríguez said ahead of the Europa League final between Sevilla and Inter Milan in Germany.
Navas is set to make his 528th appearance with Sevilla in Friday’s match, and he could become the player with most titles in the history of the Spanish club.
Sevilla will be trying to win a record sixth Europa League title, and it would be the third for Navas in Europe’s second-tier club competition — his first as a captain. It would be his seventh overall title with the club, moving him past a series of former teammates.
No one has played more matches or reached more finals with the 130-year-old club, which he joined as a teenager and is in his second stint after spending four seasons with Manchester City in the Premier League.
Navas is also the player with the most assists for Sevilla, with his 102nd on Sunday helping striker Luuk de Jong score the winning goal late in the semifinal match against Manchester United. Navas also had a crucial assist that led the team to its first European final in 2006.
“He is an example for everyone,” Monchi told The Associated Press. “We all have a special affection for him at the club. He is a magnificent professional and a magnificent person.”
The club decided to honor Navas for his history at the club by naming its main training stadium after him in 2018. President José Castro said at the time that it was an easy choice considering Navas’ numbers and the values he represented.
“It’s beautiful to have a stadium named after me, but it also means a lot of responsibility,” the shy and soft-spoken Navas told the AP in a recent interview. “As a player who has come through the club’s youth squads like me, I am responsible for passing on our values to the younger players, responsible for showing the importance of being humble and to always work hard, which is the most important thing.”
Navas started all of Sevilla’s Europa League games in Germany, where it eliminated Roma in the round of 16 and Wolverhampton Wanderers in the quarterfinals before getting past Manchester United.
Navas’ first Europa League titles came in 2006 and 2007. He also helped the club win the Copa del Rey in 2007 and 2010, as well as the 2006 UEFA Super Cup and the 2007 Spanish Super Cup.
Navas, who can play both as a midfielder or a defender on the flanks, also made his mark with Spain’s national team. He helped “La Roja” win the 2010 World Cup and the 2012 European Championship. It was Navas who started the run that led to Andrés Iniesta’s World Cup-winning goal, and it was his late goal in a group match against Croatia that helped Spain reach the quarterfinals at Euro 2012.
No Sevilla player has more international appearances with Spain than Navas.
Navas made his debut with Sevilla’s first team in 2003, and he stayed with the club for a decade before signing with Man City, which he helped win the Premier League in his first season. Navas returned to Sevilla in 2017, with a contract until the end of next season.
Whether it will be his last contract with the club will depend solely on Navas.
“Jesús,” Monchi said, “will stay with Sevilla for as long as he wants to stay with Sevilla.”
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