During the 1998-99 season, a 17-year-old Real Madrid player got his chance to play for the first team. That 17-year-old was Iker Casillas, and he slowly established himself as the starting goalkeeper for his childhood team.
After Raul left the club, Casillas became the icon for all Real Madrid fans and the player who would play his entire career with Real Madrid.
But in December 2012, the good times and vibes surrounding Casillas at Real Madrid began to sour. Casillas was benched for a league game against Malaga by then-coach Jose Mourinho. After he was benched for this game, personal grievances and differences of opinions between Mourinho and certain players on the Real Madrid team, especially those between Casillas and Mourinho, began to be aired to the Spanish media.
While a thumb injury would end Casillas’ 2012-13 season in February 2013, the tensions between Casillas and Mourinho were omnipresent.
Yet, things looked like they were resolved when Mourinho departed during the summer and Carlo Ancelotti came in as the new coach. That was until the start of the La Liga season with a home game for Real Madrid at home against Real Betis. Casillas found himself relegated to the bench in favor of Diego Lopez, and again people began to speculate about what was going on.
After Casillas was again relegated to the bench for a night game against Granada, rumors of Casillas’ future became more plausible.
It is now becoming clear that whatever was the issue last season is still an issue even with a new coach whose presence has helped to settle things and improve the atmosphere in the dressing room. I find it hard to believe that Casillas has been demoted because his play has suffered.
If anything, his benching must be a result of him being a “mole”, something he was accused of being indirectly last season. Or, it could just be a power play to make sure he knows that even though he is a club legend, it is the coach who runs the dressing room and not him.
It’s naive to assume that a player like Casillas is irreplaceable and untouchable even at a club like Real Madrid, but history suggests otherwise. The fact of the matter is that fans have seen ugly divorces between players who have been tagged as club legends/icons and their respective club.
Hopefully whatever is the issue between Casillas and either the coach or someone else within the club gets resolved, because it’s great to see players like Casillas play for one club their entire careers a la Paolo Maldini with Milan.
All that said, the fact that Casillas has not started either of Real Madrid’s first two league games is a clear sign that all is not well, and that him leaving Real Madrid to play elsewhere is now a real possibility. Whether or not we end up seeing a nasty divorce between player and club in this case remains to be seen, but what we must acknowledge is that the seeds for that to occur are in place.