All is not well at Real Madrid as the club’s two larger than life characters Jose Mourinho and club captain and goalkeeper Iker Casillas are at loggerheads. The issue started sometimes ago but became pronounced when Mourinho did the unthinkable by dropping fans favourite, first choice goalkeeper and club captain Iker Casillas in favour of little know Adan. Eyebrows were raised after that obvious affront but the ‘special one’ had his way, it seemed it was a matter of time before Casillas regained his status but an injury that has kept him on the sidelines for a protracted spell put paid to the ambition.
In the winter window, Mourinho sought a cover for him after his lengthy lay-off was confirmed and brought in former Real Madrid shot stopper, Lopez. One would have expected the newcomer to play second fiddle to a man that deposed the Spanish number 1 but instead of even challenging him for a starting berth, he has taken his place permanently on the bench as Adan is yet to start a single game since the arrival of Lopez; La Liga, Champions League and Copa Del Rey. This clearly shows Mourinho’s decision to drop Casillas for Adan was not for footballing reasons but rather for personal reasons. If Adan could displace the Spanish undisputed number 1 (Casillas), why can’t he displace Lopez who isn’t amongst the first three of La Fura Roja goal tenders?
Casillas would soon return from his injury lay-off and the die would be cast. Would Lopez drop off to the bench for him, would Casillas continue his bench role or would he not even make the bench if Adan would be preferred as a back-up to Lopez? Whichever way, Real Madrid hierarchy have a big decision to make in the summer as they would have to choose between their long serving loyal servant, the only successful product of their academy doing well for them (Casillas) and their egocentric and belligerent manager who has helped them ruffle the feathers of Barcelona hegemony and given them hope in Europe (Mourinho).
Certainly, Casillas would not be blinded by love for his boyhood club to the detriment of his international career. His continuous stay on the bench would jeopardize his La Furo Roja place with other goalkeepers looking set to usurp his place ahead of the Confederations Cup and 2014 FIFA World Cup.
In the light of Real Madrid choosing trophies instead of recompensing a faithful and loyal servant, Casillas would not be short of suitors. Let’s espouse some of them. Barcelona – the Spanish giants have a big void to fill after long term goalkeeper Valdes announced he wouldn’t be signing a new deal at the Nou Camp as he wants to try out pastures new. Personally, I have never rated Valdes and I see his exit as a perfect opportunity for Barcelona to get what their status truly merit, a world class goalkeeper and who else fits that bill if not the Real Madrid man but there is a huge hurdle to cross and it’s the intense rivalry between both sides. Both clubs are not only rivals on the pitch, they are also off it. The fans wouldn’t even want to hear any of it. The last player that crossed the divide directly, Portuguese star Luis Figo is public enemy number 1 at the Nou Camp and all through his playing days for Real Madrid, he never played for the Los Blancos at the Nou Camp. Owing to this intense rivalry, I doubt if Real Madrid would sanction the sale of their star man that has fallen from grace to grass to Barcelona.
If not Barcelona, there is no other club in Spain that can match the ambitions and wages of the Spanish goalkeeper. That means a future outside the shores of La Liga looms for him.
In the Serie A, there are three clubs that can match his ambitions and salary. Juventus, Inter and AC Milan. The Old Lady of Turin are in safe hands with the continued presence of evergreen goalkeeper Gigi Buffon. At his age, the Italian is an inspiration to other World goalkeepers. For Inter Milan, they already have a dependable goalkeeper, one they just bought in the summer Handovic and I doubt if they would be ready to let him go so soon.
AC Milan have Abbiatti and might be reluctant to acquire a hefty wage bill after only recently selling off their main stars (Thiago Silva and Zlatan Ibrahimovic) just to reduce their wage bill. The arrival of Casillas would only increase it.
That rules out Serie A, how about the Bundesliga?
Only one team is big enough to lure Casillas to Germany and it is Bayern Munich. The arrival of Pep Guardiola at Allianz Arena has made the Bavarians the cynosure of footballing eyes but I doubt if they need the Spaniard. Their goalkeeping duties are already in safe hands with German number 1 Manuel Neuer. Then, the Premier League. Undoubtedly, the Premier League is the most glamorous league in the world and every player would want to experience the magic of it, that could be pivotal in luring Casillas. What are the clubs that might be interested in acquiring the Real Madrid man’s services? Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City.
Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea are in safe hands in the goalkeeping section. The Red Devils have two good goalkeepers David De Gea and Andreas Lindergard. While De Gea has had some sorry moments in his short Manchester United career, he has also pulled some fascinating saves that are pointers to the fact that Sir Ferguson might be willing to give him more time rather than bringing in another gloves’ man to replace him. After spending big to bring in the former Athletico Madrid goalkeeper, he might just not be willing to spend big to bring in another no matter how big his name is.
For their Manchester neighbours, City, they also have a very dependable goalkeeper who is English, younger and with the potentials to be better than Casillas. I know Mancini is ever willing to buy even what he doesn’t need but the goalkeeping section is one area I doubt if he would be tinkering with.
Chelsea are also a big team that would certainly interest Casillas but yet again, they are covered in that area. I know their backups (Turnbull and Hillario) are not good enough to warrant a mention but Casillas wouldn’t be coming in to be a back-up to Petr Cech. Both goal keepers are good enough to be a top club’s first choice and it would be great injustice to expect one to play second fiddle to the other. If Courtois is unwilling to sit on the bench at Stamford Bridge, I doubt Casillas would do so.
Liverpool are a club that would also be interested in bring Casillas to the Premiership. They have goalkeeping issues, with Reina coming under severe fire at times this season but one thing that looks set to count against them is the absence of Champions League football. The Reds have been missing from Europe’s top flight club competition for many seasons and I doubt if Casillas who has been playing in the big league (Champions League) would be willing to settle for Europa League or non-European football all in the name of first team football.
That leaves Arsenal. The Gunners are certainly in the need of another goalkeeper and recent media reports show that Arsene Wenger seems tired of Szczesny’s inconsistent performances and wants to bring in an experienced goalkeeper that would give the Pole a run for his money for the starting spot. If there is anyone around that can do the job, it’s Iker Casillas. He would not only inspire Szczesny to be better, he would only provide him with valuable lessons that can only come with experience and age. But before the Gunners can start dreaming of having Casillas in their fold, they must first secure UEFA Champions League football. If it can rule out Liverpool, it can also rule out Arsenal.
Besides Champions League football, Arsenal must be ready to spend big to bag the Spanish international. Certainly, the pittance Wenger bandies in the transfer market would not tempt Real into letting one of their prized though relegated asset depart Bernabeu. Also, Arsenal must be ready to relax their rigid wage structure to accommodate the wages of Casillas which would certainly be higher than what any Arsenal player currently earns.
If the seemingly impossible happens and Casillas is announced as an Arsenal player, it would be a signature of intent by the club that the Gunners are not out to jostle for the top 4 but to have a good shot at the title and the top trophies on offer domestically and in Europe.
Written By Kolade Omotosho