As Jose Mourinho only knows too well, at Real Madrid, there is an institution. Not the club itself, or even Florentino Perez – no. The institution is Iker Casillas. Club captain and national hero. Who could forget the sickly sweet image of Casillas kissing his reporter girlfriend after winning the World Cup. All round nice guy and unquestionable starter in the Real Madrid side right?
Well not under Mourinho he wasn’t. As everyone who has not been hiding under a rock for the last year knows, the Special One did not like Iker and Iker did not like the Special One. Civil war was rife and has Casillas been at the helm of the Catalan rebels back during the rule of Franco, they may have fared a little better.
One of the major factors in Mourinho ‘leaving’ or being pushed depending on who you believe, was the break down in relationship with Casillas, then the media and half the dressing room. Cue Carlo Ancelotti arriving and the assumption that Diego Lopez would be once again on the bench and San Iker restored to the starting eleven.
There were more than a few shocked faces in the press, dressing room and also stadium last Sunday evening when Diego Lopez was the one Ancelotti chose to start in goal. The first four questions of the presser after the 2-1 win over Betis were all about Iker Casillas and when he would play again – this went for both manager Ancelotti and winning goalscorer Isco. Both dodged the questions with expert precision, but they will not go away.
Ahead of the second game of the season for Los Blancos, Ancelotti was once again asked who would start in goal, and professed he did not know the answer, but the one who did would be his starter for the remainder of the season.
The more savvy amongst us may well take this as meaning Casillas will once again be restored to his starting eleven place, and all future questions over the Lopez v Casillas issue rendered unnecessary. In starting Lopez for the opening game, Ancelotti asserted his authority, and showed it was he, not the skipper who rules the roost at the Bernabeu.
By quietly allowing Casillas to reclaim his place in between the posts against Granada on Monday night, the Italian will have accomplished both aims when joining the club – restoring harmony to the dressing room and getting the media and fans on side, and more importantly showing the dressing room that player power will not push him out of the club, and no one is a guaranteed starter.
Does Lopez deserve to be dropped? On form certainly not. In no way, shape or form does the keeper deserve the press or fan abuse levelled at him since replacing Casillas, nor does he deserve what is most likely coming on Monday. Lopez dropping to the bench for the next match will prove he was little more than a pawn used by Ancelotti to assert his authority on the club and players.
Should Ancelotti recall Casillas? Probably not. Will he? Bet your life on it.