On the 30th of June 2013, the people of Eibar took to the streets to celebrate the team's long-awaited return to the Liga Adelante. At the time, only the most optimistic of fans could have predicted that, just a few months later, their side would become the championship's surprise package.
Raúl Navas (11/05/1988, Seville) is one of the key players in this year's surprising SD Eibar that, through hard work, dedication and passion, has climbed to fourth position in the Liga Adelante against all expectations. Having served in the ranks of Real Valladolid CF and in the Sevilla FC and RC Celta de Vigo reserve teams, the 25-year-old player was without a team when Eibar came calling in 2012. Today he revels in wearing the shirt of a highly respected team.
LFP.es: How has the team managed to adapt to the Liga Adelante?
Raúl Navas: Quite well, given our position. At first we found it hard to get into the swing of the competition, but since we found our rhythm we have been fine.
LFP.es: Having won promotion earlier this year, did you expect to have such a successful start to the season and to reach the promotion playoff positions?
Raúl Navas: We really didn't expect to start so well. The good thing about this team is that we have the same core players as last year and we already had the system our coach is looking for. That is why we are fighting it out at the top.
LFP.es: Can Eibar dream of another promotion at the end of the season?
Raúl Navas: There is no harm in dreaming, but right now the goal is to stay up. Then, we shall see.
He is quite a demanding manager, who likes us to train hard and practise what we will be doing during the matches a lot. He expects us to give 100 per cent on the pitch.
LFP.es: Who has been your role model in the world of football?
Raúl Navas: As I am Sevilla fan and I played in Sevilla's reserve team, I always looked up to Javi Navarro. He was a defender who I really admired.
LFP.es What are your strengths as a defender?
Raúl Navas: Good starting moves, good in the air and a good striker of the ball. I don't know what else to tell you [laughs].
LFP.es: And from what we've seen this season, also a good eye for goal. You have now scored two goals in the Liga Adelante, one of which was a beauty against RC Recreativo de Huelva (a powerful, long-distance free-kick). Was it one of the best goals of your career?
Raúl Navas: One of the best, no. Undoubtedly the best.
LFP.es: Your coach, Gaizka Garitano, is proving to be one of the best managers in the Liga Adelante. Last year he won promotion with the side and this season he has already won the BBVA Award for November's Best Coach. What is it like to work under him?
Raúl Navas: He is quite a demanding manager, who likes us to train hard and practise what we will be doing during the matches a lot. He expects us to give 100 per cent on the pitch. Whether we play well or badly, we have to give our all.
LFP.es: The Liga Adelante is known for having some great goal-scorers. So far, who has been the most challenging striker you have faced?
Raúl Navas: All the forwards in the Liga Adelante are pretty good. You can really tell the difference compared to Segunda División B. One of the most difficult for me was definitely Córdoba's Xisco. He is a tall striker who is very strong and it is difficult to mark him.
LFP.es: In such a tight Liga Adelante where there are so few points between all the teams, what do you think will end up making the difference?
Raúl Navas: There are teams at the bottom that should undoubtedly be at the top because they are teams who are looking for promotion. In the end, if every team works as hard as each other and gives 100% on the pitch, quality will tell.
LFP.es: What do you hope 2014 will bring?
Raúl Navas: I hope the team will stay up and finish as high as possible. On a personal level, I hope to avoid injuries and to aspire to great things, to play in all the matches and to do as well as possible.