Unfortunately Diego Lopez may just be the most underappreciated man in Spain. Despite playing for his hometown club and producing fantastic performances week in and week out, he’s permanently stuck in the shadows of club legend Iker Casillas and constantly under scrutiny. Anything that can even be perceived as an error during the game, leads to calls for the return of the Real Madrid captain.
Diego Lopez’s career got a second lease of life last year when Jose Mourinho picked him up during the January transfer window. Due to a rift at the club between the Portuguese Coach and Casillas, Lopez was gifted the starting berth, performing admirably during the stretch end of the season.
When Carlo Ancelotti arrived, many speculated he would be relegated to the bench, with Casillas taking back his rightful position but the Italian kept Lopez in the starting line-up and in an unprecedented decision, relegated Casillas to Copa Del Rey and Champions League matches.
By all accounts Lopez has been superb, especially earlier in the season when the porous Madrid defence was routinely breached forcing the veteran keeper into some stunning last ditch saves. As the defence sorted itself out his high level of play continued. He’s now notched 16 clean sheets in 34 games as Los Blanco continue their hunt for the La Liga crown.
Internationally, Diego Lopez’s story is a bit more subdued. A solitary cap during the last 30 minutes of a meaningless game versus Macedonia five years ago is all he has to his name thus far.
Granted, garnering caps for Spain at the goalkeeper position has been an almost impossible task during the last decade. His competition this time around varies. Usually picked as the third understudy Napoli’s Jose Manuel Reina is almost a lock to go. Despite his lack of playing time at the national level, the man on loan from Liverpool has been in every Spanish squad since the 2006 World Cup and Del Bosque relies on him as a sort of peacemaker in La Furia Roja’s locker room.
Before the season Lopez’s chances of heading to the World Cup were at best bleak and at worst grim, but that was before the horrific cruciate ligament injury claimed Barcelona shot stopper and Spain number two Victor Valdes – now Diego Lopez only has one adversary in sight – Manchester United’s David De Gea.
The question is actually rather simple and it probably won’t come down to pure skill, regardless it’s hard to determine who’s better anyway at this point. But it will depend on what Del Bosque values in his squad. At 31-years-old this may be Diego Lopez’s only real shot of making the Spanish team.
Does Del Bosque want to give De Gea the experience of an international tournament? Seeing as he’s 22 and the heir apparent to Saint Iker’s lofty throne it would only make sense to get him used to that atmosphere. Or will Del Bosque reward Diego for his efforts this season? One thing is certain, based on his form over the past 18 months Diego Lopez certainly deserves to be on the plane to Brazil this summer.