Many Real Madrid fans are sad, crying even, about Iker Casillas leaving the team to sign with Porto, maybe his last stop before retiring. But the club itself? It moves on, because no one is bigger than the team for Los Blancos, or at least for the man running this team.
There’s been criticism directed at the club’s senior players. Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale especially. Why haven’t they made some sort of gesture through social media, the popular way of interacting with other players for the world to see? Why are they so silent when it comes to the departure of someone who has been a part of three Champions League titles, five league titles and lasted through two or even three Galacticos periods?
This isn’t the same thing as Steven Gerrard leaving Liverpool or even Xavi leaving Barcelona. While Real Madrid haven’t been as successful in recent years when compared to their great rivals from Catalonia, they’ve remained different. How? Barcelona sign huge names that both teams compete for. They don’t call it Galacticos, but they do exactly that. How are they different?
Real Madrid’s connection to its history is never about sentimentality. It’s always about remembering the glories of the past, the foundations for aspirations and relentless drive to finish first, every year, in every competition. It stands as a comparison for greatness, and not just a way to look back and remember how good they used to be.
Liverpool might be the most nostalgic club of all-time. It usually is that way when it’s been so long (25 years and counting) since you’ve last won a league title, which is very difficult to do for a club that used to dominate English football and even European football for a significant amount of time. Gerrard is a part of that link, because of his performance in the 2005 Champions League final, and of being the closest thing to ‘The Best’ for Liverpool in over a generation.
And Barcelona? ‘Mes que un Club’ might be an annoying and patronizing catch phrase but it does mean something. And the departure of a great player like Xavi, who was there for the not-so-happy years of 2000-2004 means more than just someone making his way for someone younger and maybe better. It’s a piece of history, of the club’s most successful period, a golden age, that’s gone and isn’t going to return. Casillas might have meant even more to Real Madrid fans, but it doesn’t seem like the man chosen by the fans to represent them cares.
In truth, Casillas hasn’t consistent or excellent for quite some time. Yes, he put on quite a few shows during the 2013-2014 season, especially in the Champions League, as Real Madrid finally completed the Decima. But while Casillas established his place in the starting lineup again, his power inside the club was never the same. Mourinho knocking him from the lineup had a ripple effect which Casillas never recovered from. His stature in the club and among certain groups of fans was never the same.
Casillas is crying, and a lot of Real Madrid fans are crying with him. He probably felt more comfortable with the national team over the last few years than in white, until the 2014 World Cup happened. A great goalkeeper, one of the best in history, but just like Raul was pushed out by Cristiano Ronaldo and the man who brought him over, Casillas has undergone the same treatment. That is how things work for the most ambitious and still most successful club in Europe, ever. To be surprised by it is very naive.