Middlesbrough FC forwards can expect a fearsome battle in Wednesday's UEFA Cup final with captain Javi Navarro marshalling an uncompromising Sevilla FC back line.
The 32-year-old defender is one of the central pillars of Juande Ramos's side, having established a daunting reputation in five seasons at the club. Despite a mass change of personnel in the Sevilla rearguard this term, he has ensured the Andalusian team remain extremely hard to beat.
Born in Valencia in February 1974, Navarro joined the youth set-up at Valencia CF and eventually graduated to the first team in 1994. However, seven years at Mestalla were to bring only 41 appearances and he failed to take to the field at all during the 1998/99 campaign when Valencia won the Spanish Cup.
He subsequently moved to second division Elche CF on loan for the 2000/01 season before switching to Sevilla the following summer. Once at the Ramón Sánchez-Pizjuán stadium, he helped form a defence with a reputation for uncompromising tactics. Paired with Pablo Alfaro in the centre, Navarro brought a level of physical commitment to Sevilla which occasionally bordered on the brutal.
'I did my job'
Navarro was handed a five-match ban last season for knocking RCD Mallorca's Juan Arango unconscious during a game at the Son Moix stadium but was unrepentant, saying: "I'm not going to feel inhibited by this. I did my job and I don't think I hurt anyone." Alfaro added: "Rapists get better treatment than Navarro did."
Handed nine red cards in the course of his career, Navarro is certainly no shrinking violet, but there is more to him than mere power. Like the rest of the Sevilla side, he has an impressive team ethic and his consistency and reliability have impressed Ramos.
With coach Joaquín Caparrós having left Sevilla for RC Deportivo La Coruña last summer, Navarro has also shown a degree of adaptability under his new coach. Even the departure of defensive partners Alfaro (to Real Racing Club Santander) and Sergio Ramos (to Real Madrid CF) have not fazed him.
And having helped new recruits Ivica Dragutinović and Julien Escudé settle into the squad, Navarro is on the verge of leading Sevilla to their first silverware since they won the Spanish Cup in 1948. It is a massive task, but this hard man has never flinched from a tough challenge.
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