At the turn of the year, Iker Casillas was deemed the greatest goalkeeper in Europe when he was named in the UEFA Team of the Year for a record sixth consecutive time. Ten months on, “San Iker” is not even considered to be the greatest goalkeeper in Madrid.
The demise of Spain’s most capped player has been made clear for all to see since his falling out with Jose Mourinho mid-way through last season. But what are the issues at hand in Casillas’ fall from grace? And is Real’s golden boy really deserving of a place on the Bernabeu subs bench?
Since joining Madrid’s La Fabrica academy as a 9-year-old, Iker Casillas Fernandez has won every honour on offer to him, survived the club’s ruthless Galacticos era and stolen the hearts of millions of Madridistas. Yet the toughest challenge of his career began on 28 May 2010 with the arrival of “The Special One”.
Jose Mourinho’s time in Madrid will forever be marred by the fierce rivalry he developed with Barcelona. But whenever strife was caused between the two warring footballing giants, it was Spain captain Casillas who played the role of peacemaker for the sake of the national side.
Mourinho despised this and in December last year dealt his disloyal captain the ultimate punishment. On their travels to La Rosaleda for a La Liga clash with Malaga, Mourinho named his team. Casillas was dropped. He was to be replaced by his understudy, inexperienced reserve goalkeeper Antonio Adan.
Real lost the game 3-2, but despite a backlash from the Madrid media, Adan remained between the sticks until the signing of Diego Lopez from Sevilla in January.
Lopez has since performed brilliantly for Los Blancos, much to the annoyance of Casillas, who reacted by leaking information of a rift between Mourinho and his players to reporter-girlfriend Sara Carbonero back in February.
It is believed Mourinho’s poor relationship with his players is what led to his eventual departure from the Bernabeu in the summer, for which senior squad members Casillas and Ramos have been accused of abusing player power.
However, Club President Florentino Perez has denied such rumours. Upon instating Carlo Ancelotti as Head Coach for the start of the 2013-14 campaign, Perez said: “No one here says to a coach who should play.” Before adding: “Less so with Casillas, who has all the affection of the whole board and the fans. He is the best goalkeeper in the history of Real Madrid.”
Nevertheless, Ancelotti has stuck by the in-form Lopez since he took over and recently arrived at a diplomatic solution to please both stoppers: Lopez will be his number one for La Liga encounters, and Casillas will play in the Champions League.
This seems like a reasonable proposal, for now. But what about Casillas’ long-term future?
At 32, there is still time for a big-money transfer elsewhere but the man from Mostoles must act quickly. Manchester City are set to swoop in January and the supposed €50m-plus offer would also appeal to Real.
Casillas is rumoured to earn €190,000 per week on a contract running until June 2017. However, an added clause means that the veteran would be owed an automatic extension should he play more than 30 times in the final 12 months of his current contract. Evidently, now is the time to sell if Real want top dollar for their fans’ favourite.
Despite a long-term affinity to his boyhood club, Casillas may also welcome a move away from the Bernabeu. Whilst he is now cup-tied for European Competition, a good run of games at a top club is what is required if he is to impress in the build-up to next summer’s World Cup and go on to achieve the unthinkable…Follow @icentrocampista