Madrid, Aug 27 — The debate is well and truly open in Real Madrid but coach Carlo Ancelotti has no doubts over who, for the moment, is its first choice goalkeeper.
One of Jose Mourinho’s most controversial decisions during his three years at the club was to sit Iker Casillas on the subs’ bench after he recovered from a broken hand bone which he suffered in January, reports Xinhua.
In Mourinho’s case it could well have been personal given that Casillas was one of the strongest voices in the Madrid dressing room. Their relationship was poor and did not help when Casillas’ reporter girlfriend, Sara Carbonara, revealed there were divisions among players and coach.
Mourinho would only say that he thought Diego Lopez, who returned to the club from Sevilla when Casillas suffered his injury, was a better keeper.
With Mourinho’s departure and the arrival of Carlo Ancelotti most believed that the river would return to its usual course and Casillas, who is after all the captain of the Spanish national side, would return in goal and over the pre-season Ancelotti gave nothing away as both keepers shared minutes in the warm-up friendlies.
However, he shocked everyone when Lopez started in the opening league match of the season which Madrid won 2-1 at home to Betis. An unhappy looking Casillas had commented that at least he would play in the Bernabeu Trophy friendly game last Thursday.
That was indeed the case and he was received by rapturous applause from the fans who, meanwhile, booed Lopez as he warmed up on the sidelines – something which is hard to understand and reflects badly on those who did so.
Monday night saw Madrid play in Granada and many predicted Casillas would return in goal. It was not to be and Lopez not only took his place between the posts but performed exceptionally well as Madrid won 1-0.
Asked about his decision, Ancelotti had little to offer by way of explanation but what he said will not give Casillas hope for the near future.
“Diego Lopez has played in the first and the second game and for the moment he has played well. That is all,” said the Italian, implying there will be no change to the thinking which sees him prefer Lopez’s height and ability to dominate his penalty area on high balls to Casillas’ speed and slightly sharper reflexes.
They are both fine keepers but slightly different and for the moment Casillas is the loser. But there is another problem to bear in mind.
Casillas is a Spain international, the captain of his country and this is a World Cup season, which will end with the Spanish defending their world title in Brazil. If Casillas is rooted on the Madrid subs’ bench it will be hard for Spain coach Vicente del Bosque, despite Del Bosque being a stout defender of Casillas, to pick him first choice next summer.
So where does that leave Casillas with a week remaining in the transfer market? There are rumours of interest from English clubs. Could he take the decision to leave his beloved Real Madrid to ensure first team football elsewhere?
Time will tell but one thing is certain, Ancelotti has shown by his brave decision that he is a man of his own opinions and that nobody deserves to play first choice by right.