When the captains shake hands just before the kick-off in El Gran Derbi this season, it’s an encounter between two true club and city symbols: Real Betis’ Joaquín and Sevilla’s Jesús Navas are already bona fide legends for their respective institutions.
They’re record breakers. Joaquin, for example, is the second all-time top appearance maker in LaLiga Santander, second only to the great Andoni Zubizarreta, and the most tenured active player in the league. Jesus Navas, meanwhile, has made more appearances for Sevilla in both LaLiga and all competitions than anyone in history.
These two players are all-time icons as they’ve achieved so much for their teams. They represent the values of their respective clubs and their returns to Spanish football, in 2015 for Joaquín and in 2017 for Navas, have been a welcome addition to one of the most anticipated fixtures in LaLiga Santander and European football: the Seville derby.
This will actually be just the ninth time they’ll meet in the Seville derby, but their derby rivalry dates all the way back to 2005. The two Spaniards first took each other on in this fixture in the 35th round of the 2004/05 season, a match with huge implications for European qualification as Real Betis’ 1-0 victory ultimately earned them Champions League qualification as they finished fourth, two points ahead of sixth-placed Sevilla.
There hasn’t been a single draw yet in the derbies when these two players have both been involved. Joaquín has been on the winning side four times and headed in the winner for a 1-0 win in the first meeting of the season 2018/19 (their last victory), while Navas has tasted derby day glory four times against Joaquín, including in last season’s 2-0 win at the Sanchez-Pizjuan. Joaquin missed out on this season’s first meeting in January (1-1).
This is 39-year-old Joaquín’s 21st season in professional football and 34-year-old Navas’ 18th. They’ve been starring in LaLiga Santander for so long that Joaquín actually faced current Sevilla coach Julen Lopetegui once in 2001 when the tactician was a goalkeeper for Rayo Vallecano, while Navas made his Sevilla debut before his club had ever won a European trophy. They now have seven of them.
These two players have been stewards of their clubs for almost two decades. Even though they both spent some time at other clubs and abroad, they have always remained supporters of their teams and have always been tuning into El Gran Derbi, even if from a sofa in Florence or Manchester. Now they’re both back and in the thick of it.