In 2002 Vicente Del Bosque dropped Iker Casillas as his form dipped and his lifestyle got in the way of his football. As Real Madrid went searching for their ninth Champions League trophy, the youngster from Mostoles was bench bound. Suddenly in the final an injury to Cesar gave the wonderkid his chance for redemption. Before going on Del Bosque hauled him over and spoke to him. Could the kid turn his life around?
The talk did the trick. Casillas was brilliant, stopping everything that Bayer Leverkusen threw at him as he regained his place in goal and also repaired his reputation. There was no looking back from then on. Del Bosque left Madrid Casillas went on to win League titles, Cups and two European Championships and the World Cup. He won worldwide respect and was seen as the best goalkeeper in the world. There seemed to be no stopping him. That was until he met Jose Mourinho.
At first both men seemed content to at least pretend that they liked each other but it wasn’t fooling anyone. Stories of dressing room conflicts were revealed to the Press and the finger was pointed at Casillas. At first he was undroppable but Mourinho eventually did it.
Some fans were enraged but an injury to Casillas saw Los Blancos sign Diego Lopez as cover. The former Villarreal man had played second fiddle to Casillas before but this time he was on a mission. He stepped up to the task and when Casillas returned, Lopez had sealed his spot, confining San Iker to the bench. This time there were no complaints from the fans.
As more stories from the dressing room were leaked, the finger again was pointed at Casillas and little by little fans seemed to turn on him. The Ultra Sur, who once adored Casillas, took Mourinho’s side and all Iker’s exploits were forgotten. When the Special One left it was seen as an opportunity for things to get back to normal but Carlo Ancelotti has kept faith with Lopez. Casillas has been left to play just Copa and Champions League games. He has done so in spectacular fashion, setting records in the process.
Last week Ancelotti admitted that he might use Casillas in the League. He continues to be picked for European and domestic Cup ties but for a man who was once the first name on the team sheet, his fall from favour must hurt. The Champions League offers him a chance to win over fans again but a big question remains over his future.
Can both he and the fans forget the things that have been said and done or is the damage irreparable? He is still young and so a move abroad could be an option but it would be a sad end to a remarkable career at Santiago Bernabeu. He has turned things around before – has he got the fight left in him to do so again? In a few months we will know.