When Real Madrid step on the field to play Levante this Saturday, Iker Casillas, their legendary goalkeeper, will start the game on the bench as he has for every league game so far this season.
Diego Lopez, signed to replace him after his injury last January, has been named the starting goalkeeper for the league games by Carlo Ancelotti and rightly so, as the former Villareal goalkeeper has produced some outstanding performances.
He rescued a point for his team at Villareal and saved them from a heavier defeat against their neighbors and rivals Atletico Madrid. Casillas is without a shadow of a doubt an excellent goalkeeper, but Lopez, who was Casillas’ back-up between 2005 and 2007, has proven that he deserves to be the no. 1 at the moment.
When Jose Mourinho chose to keep Lopez as no. 1 after Casillas’ comeback, the world of soccer accused ”The Special One” of putting his personal interests ahead of the team’s. For fans, journalists and analysts, the only reason why Casillas wasn’t playing was because him and Mourinho had personal problems.
Surprisingly, very few mentioned that Lopez was playing very well and deserved to be no. 1 at that moment.
When Ancelotti replaced Mourinho this summer, many thought that Casillas would automatically be the no. 1 again, but the Italian manager has confirmed Lopez as starting goalkeeper. Casillas will get to play in Champion’s League games. By not reinstating Casillas, Ancelotti proved that Mourinho was right to trust Lopez, who is a very underrated goalkeeper.
His size (6-foot-5′) is very uncommon for a Spanish goalkeeper. His main assets are his proficiency in the air, ability to put his defenders in the right spots and quickness to go to the ground despite his height. You will very rarely see a 6-foot-5′ goalkeeper stop low balls like Lopez does.
Furthermore, he has proven that he was able to handle big games, which is very important when you play for a club like Real Madrid. He was Real’s best player last February at Old Trafford when they beat Manchester United to qualify for the Champion’s League quarterfinals.
Whether or not he stays at Real, Casillas will still be a legend. However, that alone isn’t enough to guarantee him a spot. He has got to earn it every day at practice. So far, he has failed to do so.