Iker Casillas, the original Galactico, the one club legend and among the finest goalkeepers ever, finds himself sitting on the Real Madrid bench. Surely that’s not a sight that majority of the Real Madrid and Casillas fans want to see as he has been a constant for Real Madrid all these years. Will he be able to rise from the bench to reclaim his rightful place in the starting 11?
You’re a defender, your team is down to 10 men and you’ve just been hit on the counter. You’ve lost your man and he is 1 on 1 with the goalkeeper. Who do you wish, the goalkeeper was, that would be able to intimidate the striker and possibly pull off an unrealistic save to keep your team in the match? One would not put many names ahead of Iker Casillas to be that goalkeeper. Iker Casillas is one of the very few goalkeepers across the football universe whose name can be considered a synonym for goalkeeping. He is one of the very few that you would make you feel assured as a defender, one of the very few who would evoke respect even in the opposition camp, be it players or fans.
Iker Casillas is one of the rare breed of “One Club” players, a World Cup winner, a 2 time European Championship winner, 5 time La Liga and 2 time UEFA Champions League winner with Real Madrid, 5 time Worlds Best Goalkeeper, Sports Prince of Asturias Award winner, selected in the UEFA team of the year for 6 consecutive years, captain of Real Madrid and the Spanish national team, the most capped goalkeeper of all time in the UEFA Champions League and the most capped player of all time for the Spanish national team. A consistent performance until his injury made him the undisputable no. 1 for the Galacticos.
Ever since Jose Mourinho brought in Diego Lopez, Casillas lost his aura of invincibility. It beggars belief that Iker Casillas is currently the second choice goalkeeper at Real Madrid behind Diego Lopez. It is true that no player is bigger than the club but a player of the stature, capability and experience of Iker Casillas simply does not deserve to be on the bench playing second fiddle to any goalkeeper in the world, leave alone Diego Lopez. The question is, will he be able to reclaim the no. 1 spot in the starting 11, what can be considered well and truly his own?
Diego Lopez vs Iker Casillas
One may argue that Lopez has had a good run of games and is in decent form with fairly consistent performances and no glaring errors. But the fact remains, if common sense would prevail and if footballing logic triumphed, Iker Casillas should be the no. 1 ahead of Lopez. No disrespect to Lopez but he is still some way from reaching the lofty standards set by Iker Casillas. The save against Galatasaray was a reminder of that fact.
While Iker has been the undisputed first choice for Spain, Lopez does not even feature in the squad. That speaks volumes of how highly regarded Casillas is by his national team. Diego Lopez has had the backing of the manager and even Casillas has stated categorically that his rival for the starting position deserves all the games that he gets in goal. This surely adds confidence to his game and that has been showing in the performances. But when it comes to experience, reliability, capability, leadership and trophies, it’s usually futile to look beyond Iker Casillas.
La Liga Vs UEFA Champions League
Real Madrid has been playing Lopez in the La Liga and Iker Casillas in the Champions League. This is definitely a welcome change for Iker Casillas as he does get the much needed game time which he so sorely missed in the second half of the last season. Upon seeing his performances off late, it won’t be surprising if he does get a go ahead in a La Liga game soon. And that, could just be the chance that he needs to rise from the bench, to the starting line-up.
The 2001-02 Déjà vu?
Iker Casillas lost his place in the side to backup César Sánchez after a bad actuation during the 2001–02 campaign, but redeemed himself when Sánchez suffered an injury in the last minutes of 2002 Champions League final match. Casillas came on and pulled off several brilliant saves to deny a rampant Bayer Leverkusen the Champions League crown. Real Madrid won 2–1.
The current season may have started on a somewhat better note but if things are to be taken into perspective, it might as well be 2001-02 all over again, with Iker Casillas coming back from the shadows and delivering stellar performances for his club and resuming normal service albeit not at the cost of Diego Lopez’s health.
While there have been rumors and noises about a potential transfer away from Real Madrid in this upcoming January transfer window, it still seems a very distant possibility. Iker Casillas has stated in the past that he wants to remain at his boyhood club for life and there is little doubt that the stance will change. There will be no shortage of potential suitors for his signature but they will never be in luck. As Carlo Ancelotti specified in a press conference that Iker Casillas is still and will remain the club captain, it is the first check box ticked in his endeavor to return to the playing 11. Will the White Knight of Real Madrid rise again? Time as they say, will tell.