Following the final whistle on Tuesday, Iker Casillas left the field to adoring Madrid fans chanting his name. Despite going through arguably his toughest time at his beloved club, the keeper has still managed to reach new highs between the sticks. The 32-year-old has been consigned to just cup and Champions League appearances under Carlo Ancelotti, yet has still managed to go 592 minutes without conceding a goal, beating his previous record of 520. So why does Spain's World Cup winning captain find himself sat on a bench at Santiago Bernabeu?
The problems started under Jose Mourinho after the pair fell out and he was dropped in December of 2012 for a game with Malaga. Their relationship never recovered and if you fall out with Jose Mourinho, you are likely to be twiddling your thumbs on the sidelines. The Spaniard still managed to win the IFFHS World's best goalkeeper for the fifth time in a row though. The Special One dipped into the transfer market in January 2013 and brought in Diego Lopez from Sevilla as his new No. 1, leaving Casillas watching on for the rest of the season.
Following Mourinho's departure in the summer, it was thought that 'Saint Iker' would be restored to the starting line-up under Carlo Ancelotti, but this season has proved to be just as frustrating. With the Italian deciding to stick with Diego Lopez in the League, this limits the world's best keeper to just nine cup appearances and 13 Champions League appearances all season, providing that he stayed fit and the club reached both finals. Although he has declared himself happy at the club he loves, and you must admire his loyalty to Los Blancos, you can't help but think it's best for him to move on at this stage of his career.
In a position where you get better with age, at 32 Casillas should be hitting his prime round about now, which is scary considering he's already won everything there is to win in the game, individually and as a team. The position requires great concentration and building up a relationship with your defence and sporadic appearances are not conducive to this, which makes his recent record even more impressive. There is not a team in the world that wouldn't welcome Iker Casillas with open arms. Diego Lopez has done well but has he done anything that Iker Casillas couldn't do? The former Villarreal stopper has a pretty easy time of things in a league where most weeks he isn't troubled greatly, which makes the decision to trust him over a Real Madrid legend even more bizarre.
The situation is unlikely to cost the Casillas his place at the World Cup with Spain, because unlike Madrid, even though they know he isn't playing, they appreciate they have the world's best at their disposal. However, for his own career, it might be time to move on from his beloved Madrid, he has so much more to give than being a substitute goalkeeper.