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Interview

Jesús Navas superstar

At the age of 37, the Sevilla legend is still going strong for the side he dreamt of playing for as a child. He tells Simon Hart about the familial connection he feels to the club he calls home

Nunca se rinde” is the Sevilla FC motto – never give up – and nobody embodies this better than Jesús Navas. 

Here, after all, is a 37-year-old who shows no sign of slowing down in the cause of his beloved club. He played 49 games for Sevilla in 2022/23 – and in arguably the most demanding role on the pitch, at full-back, shuttling up and down the right. To emphasise the point, in the Andalusian side’s triumphant Europa League campaign he served up more crosses (52) than any other player in the competition.

A local boy from the town of Los Palacios y Villafranca, 30 minutes south of Seville, he played his first match in a Sevilla shirt 20 years ago this coming November. Save for four years at Manchester City between 2013 and 2017, his whole club career has been with Sevilla. Hence he felt as deeply as anyone the difficulties of a 2022/23 season in which Sevilla sacked two coaches and fought relegation into the springtime – before the joy of the denouement against Roma in Budapest, which secured their place in the Champions League group stage for a fourth successive year.

The emotional toll was fully apparent in the aftermath of Sevilla’s Europa League final triumph when he sat down for an interview with me, still in his kit, cradling the Europa League trophy in his arms. In a darkened room off the tunnel area of the Puskás Aréna, he sat illuminated by the lights of a film crew, those piercing blue eyes all the more striking.  

In the TV ‘flash’ interview area outside, his team-mates were still responding to reporters’ questions. Here, in this more intimate setting, Navas’s emotions were raw. “Never give up” may be the motto, but his emotions conquered him as, between sobs, he spoke of the Sevilla “family”. 

Five times he mentioned the word in just under five minutes. “This year has been very hard for our family, for our fans and for us,” he said of a campaign of storm clouds suddenly lined with silver. “Today, we were a family,” he reaffirmed. And again, when summing up this seventh triumph for Sevilla – and fourth for himself. “In the end, we’re a family. Those of us who have been here for a longer time, the veterans, we pass on this hunger because this competition made us great, really great,” he asserted.

In Navas’s mouth, “family” is no marketing-department soundbite. He joined Sevilla aged 15. He made his first-team debut two days after turning 18. He was in the team that won Sevilla’s first UEFA Cup – as the competition was then known – in 2006. Indeed, he provided the assist for the late Antonio Puerta’s extra-time winner against Schalke in that season’s semi-finals. 

And families don’t forget. In the lead-up to the Europa League final, he cited both Puerta and José Antonio Reyes – another old team-mate and Nervión favourite who has passed away – in an interview with UEFA. Recollections of Reyes came first as he remembered his early days in the first team, days “filled with enthusiasm and excitement”. He added: “I had team-mates who were role models for me, such as José Antonio Reyes. Being able to play with him was amazing. I’ve grown up here and it means everything to me. I always dreamt about playing for Sevilla’s first team and I was lucky enough to make my debut under Joaquín Caparrós.”

“For me, every match I play for Sevilla is the ultimate”
By

A fan of the club since he was a child, he helped end their 58-year wait for a major trophy in the 2006 UEFA Cup decider against Middlesbrough. “Antonio Puerta’s goal gave us the opportunity of playing a final after so many years – and what a final! We played amazingly well.”

He was 20 then, a whippet-thin winger; today, he remains much the same. He covered more than 10km per match on average in last season’s Europa League, and it was his ball that brought the own goal that got Sevilla back level in the final. “I like to attack a lot, to open up the game and create danger, and we kept trying and trying,” he said of his contribution that evening.

His efforts did not go unnoticed. Navas ended the campaign as the Europa League Player of the Season and with a recall to the Spain squad for the Nations League finals. Cue another final appearance – and, as against Roma, only in extra time did he exit the action. Following Spain’s victory against Croatia in another shoot-out, he became the first footballer to build a collection of winners’ medals in the World Cup, EURO and Nations League. Back in Los Palacios, he joined Spain colleagues and fellow sons of that Andalusian town Fabián Ruiz and Gavi in receiving a gift from the mayor: their body weight in tomatoes.

For another perspective on what Navas means to Sevilla, I listened to president José Castro Carmona discuss his club’s longest-serving player with a group of English journalists ahead of the Europa League final. “Jesús Navas is an extraordinary footballer and a lad who sets an example,” he said. “Not for nothing is the stadium at our training ground named after him.

“He’s always been shy,” Castro continued. “More than that, he’s quite introverted. He’s not a fan of interviews but he’s an extraordinary player and, at 37, he’s still ‘young’, in that he’s not had any serious injuries and looks after himself so well. He doesn’t smoke or touch a drop of alcohol.”

Navas is a man of few words but a club legend already, whose face features alongside those of Reyes, Frédéric Kanouté and others in a mural on the exterior of the main stand of the Sánchez-Pizjuán. Below it are the words “Incansables y eternos jugadores”: tireless and eternal players. 

Tireless seems especially apposite for Navas. “I came back with the same energy and drive to keep growing, learning and winning,” he said of his second spell with the club. “That’s the fuel that drives me to keep working hard in every training session, in every match – I want Sevilla to grow even more. 

“Sevilla mean everything to me. I owe the fans and the club everything. In every game, the enjoyment and passion I have for the shirt, I think that’s the most beautiful thing – to have that humility, to fight for your badge and for your team’s colours, which has brought me joy since I was a child, dreaming of being there. For me, every match I play for Sevilla is the ultimate.” 

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Interview

Jesús Navas superstar

At the age of 37, the Sevilla legend is still going strong for the side he dreamt of playing for as a child. He tells Simon Hart about the familial connection he feels to the club he calls home

Nunca se rinde” is the Sevilla FC motto – never give up – and nobody embodies this better than Jesús Navas. 

Here, after all, is a 37-year-old who shows no sign of slowing down in the cause of his beloved club. He played 49 games for Sevilla in 2022/23 – and in arguably the most demanding role on the pitch, at full-back, shuttling up and down the right. To emphasise the point, in the Andalusian side’s triumphant Europa League campaign he served up more crosses (52) than any other player in the competition.

A local boy from the town of Los Palacios y Villafranca, 30 minutes south of Seville, he played his first match in a Sevilla shirt 20 years ago this coming November. Save for four years at Manchester City between 2013 and 2017, his whole club career has been with Sevilla. Hence he felt as deeply as anyone the difficulties of a 2022/23 season in which Sevilla sacked two coaches and fought relegation into the springtime – before the joy of the denouement against Roma in Budapest, which secured their place in the Champions League group stage for a fourth successive year.

The emotional toll was fully apparent in the aftermath of Sevilla’s Europa League final triumph when he sat down for an interview with me, still in his kit, cradling the Europa League trophy in his arms. In a darkened room off the tunnel area of the Puskás Aréna, he sat illuminated by the lights of a film crew, those piercing blue eyes all the more striking.  

In the TV ‘flash’ interview area outside, his team-mates were still responding to reporters’ questions. Here, in this more intimate setting, Navas’s emotions were raw. “Never give up” may be the motto, but his emotions conquered him as, between sobs, he spoke of the Sevilla “family”. 

Five times he mentioned the word in just under five minutes. “This year has been very hard for our family, for our fans and for us,” he said of a campaign of storm clouds suddenly lined with silver. “Today, we were a family,” he reaffirmed. And again, when summing up this seventh triumph for Sevilla – and fourth for himself. “In the end, we’re a family. Those of us who have been here for a longer time, the veterans, we pass on this hunger because this competition made us great, really great,” he asserted.

In Navas’s mouth, “family” is no marketing-department soundbite. He joined Sevilla aged 15. He made his first-team debut two days after turning 18. He was in the team that won Sevilla’s first UEFA Cup – as the competition was then known – in 2006. Indeed, he provided the assist for the late Antonio Puerta’s extra-time winner against Schalke in that season’s semi-finals. 

And families don’t forget. In the lead-up to the Europa League final, he cited both Puerta and José Antonio Reyes – another old team-mate and Nervión favourite who has passed away – in an interview with UEFA. Recollections of Reyes came first as he remembered his early days in the first team, days “filled with enthusiasm and excitement”. He added: “I had team-mates who were role models for me, such as José Antonio Reyes. Being able to play with him was amazing. I’ve grown up here and it means everything to me. I always dreamt about playing for Sevilla’s first team and I was lucky enough to make my debut under Joaquín Caparrós.”

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“For me, every match I play for Sevilla is the ultimate”
By

A fan of the club since he was a child, he helped end their 58-year wait for a major trophy in the 2006 UEFA Cup decider against Middlesbrough. “Antonio Puerta’s goal gave us the opportunity of playing a final after so many years – and what a final! We played amazingly well.”

He was 20 then, a whippet-thin winger; today, he remains much the same. He covered more than 10km per match on average in last season’s Europa League, and it was his ball that brought the own goal that got Sevilla back level in the final. “I like to attack a lot, to open up the game and create danger, and we kept trying and trying,” he said of his contribution that evening.

His efforts did not go unnoticed. Navas ended the campaign as the Europa League Player of the Season and with a recall to the Spain squad for the Nations League finals. Cue another final appearance – and, as against Roma, only in extra time did he exit the action. Following Spain’s victory against Croatia in another shoot-out, he became the first footballer to build a collection of winners’ medals in the World Cup, EURO and Nations League. Back in Los Palacios, he joined Spain colleagues and fellow sons of that Andalusian town Fabián Ruiz and Gavi in receiving a gift from the mayor: their body weight in tomatoes.

For another perspective on what Navas means to Sevilla, I listened to president José Castro Carmona discuss his club’s longest-serving player with a group of English journalists ahead of the Europa League final. “Jesús Navas is an extraordinary footballer and a lad who sets an example,” he said. “Not for nothing is the stadium at our training ground named after him.

“He’s always been shy,” Castro continued. “More than that, he’s quite introverted. He’s not a fan of interviews but he’s an extraordinary player and, at 37, he’s still ‘young’, in that he’s not had any serious injuries and looks after himself so well. He doesn’t smoke or touch a drop of alcohol.”

Navas is a man of few words but a club legend already, whose face features alongside those of Reyes, Frédéric Kanouté and others in a mural on the exterior of the main stand of the Sánchez-Pizjuán. Below it are the words “Incansables y eternos jugadores”: tireless and eternal players. 

Tireless seems especially apposite for Navas. “I came back with the same energy and drive to keep growing, learning and winning,” he said of his second spell with the club. “That’s the fuel that drives me to keep working hard in every training session, in every match – I want Sevilla to grow even more. 

“Sevilla mean everything to me. I owe the fans and the club everything. In every game, the enjoyment and passion I have for the shirt, I think that’s the most beautiful thing – to have that humility, to fight for your badge and for your team’s colours, which has brought me joy since I was a child, dreaming of being there. For me, every match I play for Sevilla is the ultimate.” 

Interview

Jesús Navas superstar

At the age of 37, the Sevilla legend is still going strong for the side he dreamt of playing for as a child. He tells Simon Hart about the familial connection he feels to the club he calls home

Nunca se rinde” is the Sevilla FC motto – never give up – and nobody embodies this better than Jesús Navas. 

Here, after all, is a 37-year-old who shows no sign of slowing down in the cause of his beloved club. He played 49 games for Sevilla in 2022/23 – and in arguably the most demanding role on the pitch, at full-back, shuttling up and down the right. To emphasise the point, in the Andalusian side’s triumphant Europa League campaign he served up more crosses (52) than any other player in the competition.

A local boy from the town of Los Palacios y Villafranca, 30 minutes south of Seville, he played his first match in a Sevilla shirt 20 years ago this coming November. Save for four years at Manchester City between 2013 and 2017, his whole club career has been with Sevilla. Hence he felt as deeply as anyone the difficulties of a 2022/23 season in which Sevilla sacked two coaches and fought relegation into the springtime – before the joy of the denouement against Roma in Budapest, which secured their place in the Champions League group stage for a fourth successive year.

The emotional toll was fully apparent in the aftermath of Sevilla’s Europa League final triumph when he sat down for an interview with me, still in his kit, cradling the Europa League trophy in his arms. In a darkened room off the tunnel area of the Puskás Aréna, he sat illuminated by the lights of a film crew, those piercing blue eyes all the more striking.  

In the TV ‘flash’ interview area outside, his team-mates were still responding to reporters’ questions. Here, in this more intimate setting, Navas’s emotions were raw. “Never give up” may be the motto, but his emotions conquered him as, between sobs, he spoke of the Sevilla “family”. 

Five times he mentioned the word in just under five minutes. “This year has been very hard for our family, for our fans and for us,” he said of a campaign of storm clouds suddenly lined with silver. “Today, we were a family,” he reaffirmed. And again, when summing up this seventh triumph for Sevilla – and fourth for himself. “In the end, we’re a family. Those of us who have been here for a longer time, the veterans, we pass on this hunger because this competition made us great, really great,” he asserted.

In Navas’s mouth, “family” is no marketing-department soundbite. He joined Sevilla aged 15. He made his first-team debut two days after turning 18. He was in the team that won Sevilla’s first UEFA Cup – as the competition was then known – in 2006. Indeed, he provided the assist for the late Antonio Puerta’s extra-time winner against Schalke in that season’s semi-finals. 

And families don’t forget. In the lead-up to the Europa League final, he cited both Puerta and José Antonio Reyes – another old team-mate and Nervión favourite who has passed away – in an interview with UEFA. Recollections of Reyes came first as he remembered his early days in the first team, days “filled with enthusiasm and excitement”. He added: “I had team-mates who were role models for me, such as José Antonio Reyes. Being able to play with him was amazing. I’ve grown up here and it means everything to me. I always dreamt about playing for Sevilla’s first team and I was lucky enough to make my debut under Joaquín Caparrós.”

“For me, every match I play for Sevilla is the ultimate”
By

A fan of the club since he was a child, he helped end their 58-year wait for a major trophy in the 2006 UEFA Cup decider against Middlesbrough. “Antonio Puerta’s goal gave us the opportunity of playing a final after so many years – and what a final! We played amazingly well.”

He was 20 then, a whippet-thin winger; today, he remains much the same. He covered more than 10km per match on average in last season’s Europa League, and it was his ball that brought the own goal that got Sevilla back level in the final. “I like to attack a lot, to open up the game and create danger, and we kept trying and trying,” he said of his contribution that evening.

His efforts did not go unnoticed. Navas ended the campaign as the Europa League Player of the Season and with a recall to the Spain squad for the Nations League finals. Cue another final appearance – and, as against Roma, only in extra time did he exit the action. Following Spain’s victory against Croatia in another shoot-out, he became the first footballer to build a collection of winners’ medals in the World Cup, EURO and Nations League. Back in Los Palacios, he joined Spain colleagues and fellow sons of that Andalusian town Fabián Ruiz and Gavi in receiving a gift from the mayor: their body weight in tomatoes.

For another perspective on what Navas means to Sevilla, I listened to president José Castro Carmona discuss his club’s longest-serving player with a group of English journalists ahead of the Europa League final. “Jesús Navas is an extraordinary footballer and a lad who sets an example,” he said. “Not for nothing is the stadium at our training ground named after him.

“He’s always been shy,” Castro continued. “More than that, he’s quite introverted. He’s not a fan of interviews but he’s an extraordinary player and, at 37, he’s still ‘young’, in that he’s not had any serious injuries and looks after himself so well. He doesn’t smoke or touch a drop of alcohol.”

Navas is a man of few words but a club legend already, whose face features alongside those of Reyes, Frédéric Kanouté and others in a mural on the exterior of the main stand of the Sánchez-Pizjuán. Below it are the words “Incansables y eternos jugadores”: tireless and eternal players. 

Tireless seems especially apposite for Navas. “I came back with the same energy and drive to keep growing, learning and winning,” he said of his second spell with the club. “That’s the fuel that drives me to keep working hard in every training session, in every match – I want Sevilla to grow even more. 

“Sevilla mean everything to me. I owe the fans and the club everything. In every game, the enjoyment and passion I have for the shirt, I think that’s the most beautiful thing – to have that humility, to fight for your badge and for your team’s colours, which has brought me joy since I was a child, dreaming of being there. For me, every match I play for Sevilla is the ultimate.” 

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