It doesn’t seem like Iker Casillas is important these days to Real Madrid and those leading the club, be it the head coach or those that are above him. Despite being a club legend and a Spanish national hero, looking to end his career elsewhere isn’t going to be the first time someone of his stature was run out of the club and enjoyed a happier ending somewhere else.
Raul is the perfect example for a player that was shown the door, but a bit more gently than others. Achievements of the past don’t buy you a place in the lineup during your twilight football years, that’s clear to everyone. Raul was shown that it’s either going to be retirement for him, or going on to play elsewhere, because the arrivals of Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka and Karim Benzema, along with the rise of Gonzalo Higuain, meant the end to the Raul era at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Things have gone a bit differently with Iker Casillas, who became the symbol of the fall of Jose Mourinho in Madrid, in a way at least. Mourinho decided he’ll bench Casillas no matter what, but it didn’t work out for him very well while Antonio Adan was the backup keeper, as Real Madrid slipped further behind Barcelona. Then came Diego Lopez, and Casillas, remaining the starting goalkeeper for the national team, was benched without it looking like some personal vendetta. Lopez has been brilliant since returning to Real Madrid.
Cameras and lip-readers caught Iker Casillas and Pepe Reina chatting this week before the match against Belarus in the World Cup qualifiers. Victor Valdes is now the goalkeeper for Spain, deservedly so. There’s only so much Casillas can hope to do while being a bench player at Real Madrid, getting a chance to play maybe 12 matches this season, in the various cup competitions. As Reina told him, it might be time to go. Hardly playing as Casillas is still quite young and capable, just isn’t right.
Maybe Mourinho knew what he was doing, and recognized a slip in Casillas’ form that sometimes hard to notice because of the aura of success that surrounds the goalkeeper. It doesn’t matter if he was benched for personal reasons or for professional ones; it’s always been hard to tell with Mourinho. Diego Lopez, right now, is the better goalkeeper.
Real Madrid have never been about just one player, as great as he is. It might not look that way on the field, especially with Cristiano Ronaldo, but life will go on without him as well once he leaves or retires. The same goes for Casillas, who simply doesn’t see himself leaving, but in order to save his career, needs to look for the nearest exit.