The Confederations Cup provided an opportunity to see that Iker Casillas is still a leading goalkeeper, and that the events of last season at Real Madrid were all part of some very weird development that couldn’t of happened anywhere else, and yet there’s no doubt that his status as the unmovable keeper of the club has changed for the worse.
Diego Lopez will not be remembered in history as one of the greatest goalkeepers that ever lived. Iker Casillas? He will be, at least when it comes to his list of accomplishments, which include four La Liga championships, two Champions League trophies, two European championships with Spain and the 2010 World Cup. A symbol of success, class and sportsmanship (respect for Italia!).
But is he still a great goalkeeper? That has to be dissected a bit further. Despite what Jose Mourinho said last season, Iker Casillas wasn’t benched because of his form. Real Madrid weren’t dropping points at an alarming rate early in the season because of Casillas. And yet Diego Lopez provided a lot more defensive stability, and better performances in between the goalposts, putting Casillas back just didn’t seem reasonable, especially with the feud in the dressing room going as far as it did.
Carlo Ancelotti, as any good manager would do, says everyone starts with a clean slate. Chances are equal. But Ancelotti is a manager who likes to befriend his players, not wanting to step on anyone’s toes. While Lopez might actually be, individually, the better goalkeeper than Casillas, his effect and confidence he projects on his teammates can’t compete with the influence Casillas has on his defense, still, after so many years.
If Jose Mourinho would have stayed for another season, Casillas wouldn’t have. MLS rumors started popping up, although it’s hard to believe no team in a major European league would have found a lineup spot for Casillas, and there would have been plenty of rich clubs from lesser divisions willing to offer trucks of money to have on of the greatest players of the last 15 years spend his final career years on their team.
But Casillas knows it’s not a fixed fight from the beginning anymore. Another rough start to the season with a goal or two that could have been stopped by him will begin the usual whispers in the stands to grow louder and louder. After starting from the moment he arrived, Lopez has no intention of spending an entire season on the bench, even if it is behind Spain’s greatest goalkeeper of all-time.
Real Madrid’s season won’t rise and fall on Casillas, just like it didn’t last season. The alternatives for him are good enough to trust, while Casillas, even at his worst, isn’t a goalkeeper that ruins a season for you. It’ll be much more important for Ancelotti to keep Ronaldo happy, while finding the right kind of balance between new arrivals like Illarramendi and Isco and players suddenly threatened, Mesut Ozil and Xabi Alonso. However, not having the dressing room drama involving Casillas is something everyone wishes for the club to enjoy.