The battle for Real Madrid’s soul was waged between then manager in Jose Mourinho and legend Iker Casillas. The dressing room was split in two and the fans were split right down the middle as well. This was clearly an unhealthy environment for any club and the season ended without a trophy.
For whatever reason, Mourinho did not fancy Saint Iker. Many say that Mourinho thought that Casillas’ thought too much of himself and didn’t train with the intensity that Mourinho demanded. Casillas was also vocal about Mourinho’s abrasive style and Mourinho did not like being challenged in the locker room by one of his players. Mourinho said that it was tough to do your job when some players are plotting against you behind the scenes. Many feel this statement was directed at Sergio Ramos and Casillas. Mourinho seemingly punished Casillas by leaving him out for the second half of the season for January signing Diego Lopez. It must be said that Lopez was indeed fantastic, but Casillas is unbenchable right? Wrong! I don’t know if he really believed this but Mourinho said in no uncertain terms:
“Casillas? I have no problem with him. I like Diego Lopez more. And I have that right. Just as if Iker likes Pellegrini more than me. While I’m Real Madrid coach, Diego Lopez will always play.”
Casillas said this about being shunted to the Madrid bench: “I’ve cried. I’ve suffered, I’ve been unwell, I’ve had sleepless nights.” Most people sympathized with Iker because he’s been at Madrid since he was 18. He came through the ranks and beat out competition from the more established and on a team that is known for constant change, Casillas has always been there. Through the good and through the bad the one constant in the lives of Madrid supporters was Iker Casillas. For Mourinho to bench Saint Iker was as if he was challenging the wishes of God himself and this was one of major reasons why Mourinho left.
Carlo Ancelotti was brought in because he was seen as a great peace maker. His ego has never seemed to be bigger than any one elses. He doesn’t need to be known as the special one and he’s never been the type to upset the apple cart. He goes about his business quietly and players seem to love him. Fans were excited, the board were excited, damnit we were excited because this was the right guy to bring La Decima to the Bernabeu. I’m sure Casillas was happy to see the Ancelotti come in and thought his place was secured.
On August 18th 2013, Iker Casillas must have expected to be in the starting line up for Real Madrid. He’d played all pre-season and was Spain’s number one again. Looks like Carlo Ancelotti had other ideas. The world was sent into a tidal wave of shock when yet again in a competitive Real Madrid game Diego Lopez was selected ahead of Casillas. Maybe we shouldn’t have been so surprised. Ancelotti himself the day before the game said that he couldn’t choose between the two keepers. Barcelona keeper Victor Valdes has proclaimed that Ancelotti was wrong to do so.
The question I ask now is whether or not Diego Lopez is a good keeper? If you say yes then why are we all in shock. Against Manchester United, Lopez was crucial to Madrid seeing off Ferguson’s men. Lopez hasn’t made any howlers and he’s been in fact very very good. Does Casillas really deserve to walk into the Real Madrid line up based on his past achievements? Is he still the best keeper in Spain and perhaps the world? Does Diego Lopez deserve more respect from the media and supporters?
Maybe this is all premature talk. Perhaps Ancelotti wanted to see how Lopez would perform before going back to Casillas for the remainder of the season. If Lopez starts the next game against Granada then Casillas should consider his football. Arsenal are looking for a new goal keeper and they should break the bank for him. Casillas’ will not walk into the Spain national team as no.1 if he has another season on the bench and he needs to think about that.
We wait for the Granada game with great anticipation. August 26th could be D-day for a saint and Madrid fans may not forgive Ancelotti for this “sin” unless La Decima arrives as a result.