Most people celebrate when they get the all clear from the doctor and most would have expected to see the man who is considered the greatest goalkeeper in the world to be doing cartwheels when he received his recently.
But in the case of Iker Casillas all is not well. Dropped before and after Christmas, the man they call ‘San Iker’ has returned after a few months out injured. While most could not fathom the reason for Jose Mourinho picking second choice Antonio Adan over the shot stopper when it comes to Diego Lopez, fans are divided.
Lopez has really stepped up a level at Real Madrid and has produced some solid displays that have left fans in two minds. There is an element of irony surrounding the Lopez-Casillas situation. Lopez left Los Blancos because he couldn’t oust the Spanish No 1 and subsequently he made a name for himself at Villarreal. When the Yellow Submarines went down he was in demand and he signed for Sevilla but they let him go when Los Vikingos called because he was warming the bench while 40-year-old Andres Palop was playing. Now he could end up writing his name in the history books, at the expense of Casillas, as the club look a good bet for La Decima.
The former Villarreal man has made some crucial saves with one particular stop in Old Trafford that kept his side in the Champions League. Should he be dropped when he has played so well? Also with the team on a positive run is it wise to tinker with a winning formula? Of course this goes much deeper than that. The relationship between Casillas and Mourinho has always been strained and it seems that too much water has passed under the bridge.
In 2012 a training ground argument was leaked and its printing word for word in the Press infuriated the Special One. Rumours that he had had enough spread like wildfire as divisions in the camp were starting to become clear. He stayed and the club won the League in spectacular fashion but there were still problems. There was clearly an issue between Casillas and Sergio Ramos, both club captains, and the Coach and although everyone was trying to portray that it was all happy families nobody was buying it. A poor start and, with the Spanish Press running with stories about problems in the squad, the tension got worse.
At the start of 2013 Marca ran a story that Ramos and Casillas had told President Florentino Perez that it was either Mourinho or them. The story caused such uproar that Perez held a Press conference the same day to deny the allegations. Mourinho has never hidden his disgust at the fact that there is a mole in his dressing room that is leaking stories. Names have been suggested but never proven and one name pops up a lot.
The Bernabeu faithful first booed Mourinho’s decision to drop Casillas but even amongst fans there are divisions. It was said a few seasons back that the Coach wanted his players to bad mouth Barca at every opportunity. Casillas refused to be drawn into arguments when questioned by reporters and certain sections of the Santiago Bernabeu felt that he should be defending the club in the same way as Xavi and Carles Puyol do theirs. Whilst then he was untouchable, with Lopez playing well currently, those same sections of support are standing by Mourinho and his decision to drop the saint.
This week former sporting director Arrigo Sacchi weighed into the argument. The former Milan Coach was at the club between 2004 and 2005 and originally said that Mourinho was completely right to drop Casillas, saying that the ‘keeper never trained hard. A little later on a Spanish radio station he flipped and said that the player always trained ‘quite well’. While he has always believed that he was a top-notch player, Sacchi has also been a critic of Casillas.
“He shouldn’t believe everything the papers say about him. He needs to keep a balanced head and mature a bit,” said Sacchi back in 2005. It was believed at the time that Sacchi favoured a ‘keeper like Gigi Buffon at the club as he felt that Casillas was distracted by too many off the field antics. In the end Iker stood his ground and proved his worth. But what about now? How does he feel?
He has come out and said that he hopes everyone will remember his devotion both at international and club level. It is something that no-one should ever forget, but football is not what is used to be and fans can be fickle and forgetful. Is it too much to imagine that he may follow Victor Valdes and seek a move abroad? Only time will tell.