A move that has been three years in the brewing is finally being poured out of the steaming Real Madrid teapot. After 25 years at the club, 16 years in the first team and a whole stack of trophies, Iker Casillas has left the building. Or rather, he will – after Friday’s farewell at the Santiago Bernabéu, where those supporters who have been so prone to booing the club captain will need to hold back their gripes for just a few minutes to pay tribute to a footballer who is a genuine icon.
After rumours of moves to MLS, PSG or even the Premier League, Casillas appears to have found the perfect club with Porto. A deal struck with Madrid, who will take on some of the financial burden, sees the footballer earning a reported €10million a season in a two-year deal.
Casillas will be able to play Champions League football, have enough Spaniards in the dressing room to feel right at home and even find a familiar face in the form of Porto boss Julen Lopetegui, a former Real Madrid ‘B’ team coach and Spain U-21 manager. What’s more, Oporto is mere minutes away from Madrid by plane, meaning that the goalkeeper’s favourite haunts in barrio of Mostoles will still enjoy the local hero’s patronage from time to time.
Whilst the Madrid media will declare the footballer to be a living legend of the side and talk of a fond farewell, this particular parting of the ways will not be a particularly friendly one. Rather like those of Raul and Guti, two footballers born and raised at the club, the eventual send-off is more like a gentle poke out of the door by Florentino Pérez.
The problems began for Casillas under José Mourinho, when the goalkeeper returned from injury halfway through the 2012-13 season and found that the supposed interim keeper Diego López was now the number one. Whilst the Portuguese provoker claimed that it was a purely footballing decision, a suspicion hung over the Spanish capital that a clash of prickly characters was the problem.
As well as rumours that Casillas was spinning against Mourinho from the dressing room and forming a cabal with Sergio Ramos, it was clear that the club captain was unhappy at the way that Mourinho was trying to divide the World Cup-winning Spanish camp with his antagonistic approach to Barcelona in the Clásicos. From Mourinho’s perspective, the Casillas’ wish to patch up differences with those at the Catalan club was against company orders and counter-productive.
Casillas would have watched the departure of the Portuguese coach at the end of that campaign with a mixture of relief and a defiant middle finger. However, life was to continue to be troublesome for Casillas, who remained on the bench under the tenure of Carlo Ancelotti. To be dropped by one manager was unfortunate; to be dropped by two meant something was not quite right.
Although Casillas was restored as Madrid’s number one stopper last season, there were still doubts and criticisms over his form from particularly picky supporters. There were even boos for a footballer once christened Saint Iker by some in the Santiago Bernabéu.
This exhausting three-year back story will have played a huge part in his decision to leave the only club he has ever known. That and the fact that David de Gea’s potential arrival would almost certainly see the 34-year-old heading back to the bench.
Whilst playing for Real Madrid is almost certainly a dream of most footballers, the cons sometimes heavily outweigh the pros. The pressure is constant. The gossip, rumours and scurrilous stories are endless, and any player is only a couple of bad matches from being a Bernabéu boo-boy. It’s no wonder that Casillas wants to spend his twilight years somewhere a little more sedate.