The first ruptures of the relationship between Jose Mourinho and Iker Casillas became apparent in late 2012, when the Portuguese boss dropped the long-term Real Madrid No 1 in favour of academy graduate Antonio Adan.
“It's a technical decision,” Mourinho explained. “The Coach analyses the situation, looks at the players at his disposal and chooses his team. At the moment, for me and my coaching staff, Adan is better than Iker.”
At the time there was total outcry from the Madridistas, astonished that Mourinho would drop the captain and fan favourite, a man who embodied the club and had been a permanent fixture in the side since 1999, when he was just an 18-year-old.
Adan took a similar path to Casillas, establishing himself as first choice at both Real Madrid’s C and B sides before making his breakthrough at the top level, and in the summer of 2006, Adan captained his country’s Under 19 side to victory in the European Championship.
Unlike Casillas, he failed to nail down his place when the opportunity was afforded to him. The match for which Casillas was dropped – a 3-2 loss at Malaga – failed to convince a sceptical fan-base that it was the correct decision, while the following game essentially finished any realistic hopes Adan had of a future at Santiago Bernabeu. Nine minutes into the game against Real Sociedad, he was sent off while conceding a penalty.
Ultimately, that series of events will be reflected upon as Mourinho foreseeing the decline of Casillas which has become increasingly apparent with each passing season, and Adan’s contribution largely forgotten. However, what has since become clear is that this is a fantastically able shot-stopper in his own right.
After a nine-year spell in the capital, Adan left the club and joined Serie A outfit Cagliari, but after only three months in Sardinia he returned to Spain to join Real Betis. Immediately making the position his own at Los Verdiblancos, the 28-year-old was helpless to stop Betis’ slide towards Segunda in 2014 despite a string of fine individual performances.
He has clearly been rejuvenated since his move to the Andalusian capital, and was just as important as experienced striking duo Ruben Castro and Jorge Molina in the club’s immediate return to La Liga the following season.
Adan’s fine run of form has extended into the current campaign, widely lauded as one of the most consistent and steadfast performers in the division. Able to excellently command and marshal his back four, he is also a fine shot-stopper – no other goalkeeper has made more saves in La Liga this season
It is never easy for players in the League’s lower half to gain the attention of Vincente Del Bosque and the Spain selectors, but a magnificent performance against his former employers Real Madrid in a 1-1 draw in January brought Adan’s qualities to prominence. Not only do many now believe he should be a part of the Spain squad in France, but there are persistent rumours that a number of Premier League sides, including Liverpool and Southampton, are chasing his signature.
What is for sure is that if he keeps up his fine run of form he will no longer be known for his role in Casillas’ fall from grace, but rather very much in his own right.