Iker Casillas: the shadows of the Spanish goalkeeper

Del Bosque and Mourinho were the only ones able to doubt their eternal ownership
Former Real Madrid player Iker Casillas

PHOTO/REUTERS  -   Former Real Madrid player Iker Casillas

Casillas' retirement was written on 1 May 2019 when a heart attack changed the life of the best goalkeeper in recent Spanish football history. He recovered, Porto protected him and in August 2020 he decided to hang up his boots for good. In the midst of the whole process, he was given time to try and run for the RFEF against Luis Rubiales. In the end, the pandemic and, above all, the toupee to move in the federative caves led him to retire. 


Casillas belongs to the best fifth of footballers in the history of our football. He brought Real Madrid back to the European throne, conquered Leagues with impossible stops and finished his curriculum with two European Championships and a World Cup as captain of the Spanish national team. A career with hardly any serious injuries that made him an unquestionable goalkeeper for Real Madrid with all the coaches. Or with almost all of them.

The goalkeeper of Móstoles continued the saga of the goals nailed to the goal of the Santiago Bernabéu. Miguel Ángel, Buyo, Casillas... all of them eclipsed other greats like García Remón or Cañizares because their place was untouchable. César, Diego López, Dudek, Adán or Keylor Navas waited for their chance while Casillas continued to work miracles under the clubs of Real Madrid. 


But it wasn't always easy for the coaches who came to the White House. Vicente del Bosque was the first to come down from the cloud to the goalkeeper. His intense social life in the towns of Avila together with the failed Chava Jiménez put the white coach on alert. He sat Casillas on the bench in the final stretch of the 2001-2002 season, which included the Champions League final in Glasgow against Leverkusen. Del Bosque bet on Cesar until he was injured in the second half with 2-1 for the Whites. Casillas' reflexes under the posts reached their maximum expression with impossible stops that took the Ninth to the Chamartin trophy room.  


After Del Bosque's departure there were turbulent times at Real Madrid where nobody thought to look at the goal. The bench became a kind of catwalk where Carlos Queiroz (333 days), Camacho (117 days), García Remón (101 days), Luxemburgo (340 days) and López Caro with 207 days in charge were parading. None of them dared to doubt the goalkeeper's performance, neither did Camacho who arrived in May and left in September with the competition about to start. Maybe he saw something he didn't like. 


In 2006, Fabio Capello arrived with Ramón Calderón as president. The Italian won the famous La Liga del Clavo Ardiendo, the comebacks and the draw on points with Barça. Everything began the summer of his arrival. Diego Lopez was Casillas' understudy, but in the preseason he worked hard and convinced Capello to win the Carranza Trophy. The news that Casillas could be a substitute at the Santiago Bernabeu Trophy leaked to the press who did not hesitate to attack the Italian. The season ended with all the matches played by Casillas except four Cup matches and one Champions League match in which Lopez played. Capello did not dare to alter the order in the white goal and ended up leaving the white team after winning the League. 

#Hurricane Mourinho

Schuster (519 days), Juande Ramos (174 days) and Pellegrini (358 days) did not touch the white goal either. But Hurricane Mourinho came in 2010 and the 1,097 days it lasted in Madrid removed the white foundations. Their goal was to make a team of soldiers who would kill for their football. The same system he had devised in Porto and Milan, but Real Madrid was not a club in need of titles and that exploded in the middle of a media battle with Guardiola. 


Casillas lived quietly, although his prodigies under the sticks were not sufficiently praised by the Portuguese in the media. He made it clear that a goalkeeper's job is to stop and more at Real Madrid. If we add to that an innocent photo of Ramos on Twitter where he was surprised to see Casillas for the first time in the Valdebebas gymnasium, we can see that the goalkeeper's performance was seriously questioned for the first time. 


Spain's goalkeeping giants were already lifting European Championships and a World Cup while being watched from the sidelines by Mourinho. In 2012, the Portuguese's finger was pointed at him for his good relations with journalists. While he was charging against Pedro León or Granero for leaking line-ups, he was keeping the final gunpowder against Iker Casillas for trying to make peace with Barça and save Spanish football from a historical scuffle. That call to Xavi Hernández ended up putting Casillas in the firing line. 


On Three Kings' Day 2013, the news broke at the Bernabeu. Adán was in the goal of Real Madrid and Casillas became a substitute. The goals he had conceded in the first third of the competition showed his poor form. The season would be an ordeal for the international goalkeeper and it all ended in a fatal injury at Mestalla. Arbeloa tried to clear a ball and ended up hitting Casillas' hand. Two team-mates who did not have a good relationship off the field. Arbeloa was a fan of Mourinho and Casillas... no. 


Mourinho saw the light in Diego Lopez. A good goalkeeper on top and concerned about staying in shape. Again the canterano of Real Madrid was returning home. The Portuguese coach did what Capello didn't dare to do, sit Casillas down for good and prepare him for his departure from the club. Casillas never asserted himself as a captain in the bad times. It was easy to lift trophies, but he couldn't stop a coach who never had any Real Madrid culture. He refused to deal directly with the press and ended up opening too many doors with the club because of his relationships with certain journalists who caused him more problems when they attacked Mourinho to defend him. 

#Civil War

The Civil War that José Mourinho unleashed at the white club took everything away. Veteran and new players, branch coaches, Agustin Herrerin who ended up on the floor after one of the usual fights in the dressing room tunnel, Florentino himself who held the Portuguese in office against all odds, journalists and most of the rival fans who began to dislike the white club. 


Ancelotti found the job done. On a sporting level he managed a winning team that had improved its performance in the Champions League. Casillas arrived late to the 2013 preseason after losing the Confederations Cup 3-0 to Brazil. Diego López became the first-choice goalkeeper in the league and Casillas in the cup and the Champions League. Real Madrid ended up winning the championships played by the Madrid-born player. The 24 matches he played were enough to get him back with Spain to the World Cup in Brazil and to close with disgrace the best stage of the Spanish football. His performance against the Netherlands and the five goals he conceded left him without a natural place in the national team. 


In 2015 Ancelotti and Casillas left Real Madrid. The Italian with the affection of the Bernabeu and the goalkeeper facing the stands with crossing insults during some matches. A lonely press conference that he still regrets and a wild economic negotiation put an end to the club of life. 

#More or less 

The Casillas-Del Bosque relationship had another setback in 2016. After 14 years, the coach from Salamanca once again left Casillas on the bench. De Gea was his goalkeeper for the European Championship, where there were too many faces in Spain. "Casillas' behaviour with the coaching staff was... like this, like this..." It was in this tone that Del Bosque was dispatched with the goalkeeper after the elimination in the Round of 16 against Italy and with his bags at the door. Casillas did not fit in well with his substitution and - once again - he talked too much with the journalists, something that bothered Del Bosque. The coexistence was unpleasant during the training camp and Casillas never returned to the Spanish team. His last game was the 6-1 win over South Korea on 2 June 2016. 


Now Casillas says goodbye to football and sets off for Real Madrid. Florentino is a specialist in bringing rebels back into the fold. Hierro, Raúl, Arbeloa... all have made the best team in the world bigger again. If Casillas lands at the Bernabeu and learns to respect the uniqueness of his club, Real Madrid will have a team of galácticos in the offices and that is very good news.