Spain and Real Madrid captain Iker Casillas said Thursday he has accepted his role as backup goalkeeper to Diego López, but added a caveat that will have club presidents across Europe’s leagues reaching for their calculators. “If in three months the situation has not changed and I am asked the same question, maybe I will answer that I am thinking about leaving,” Casillas said while attending an event on the outskirts of Madrid.
Further to his substitute’s role for his club, Casillas was dropped from the national team in a competitive match for the first time in years last week in a World Cup qualifier against Belarus. In a World Cup year, the 32-year-old risks losing out permanently to in-form Barcelona stopper Víctor Valdés. The hero of Johannesburg – whose nickname San Iker speaks volumes about the esteem in which he is held across the country – will not be happy at the prospect of watching La Roja’s title defense from the bench, or even the sofa.
Casillas’ travails began last December, when he fell victim to a political power struggle at the Bernabéu. José Mourinho elected to bench the captain in a league match at Málaga, stating that Casillas’ understudy Antonio Adán was in better form. After that experiment backfired spectacularly – Real lost to Málaga and Adán was sent off five minutes into his next match – Casillas was reinstated, only to have his hand badly damaged by teammate Álvaro Arbeloa during a King’s Cup quarterfinal match against Valencia.
Since Casillas sustained that injury in January, López, brought in initially as cover, has made the starting spot his own. Casillas has played only one full game this season, in the Champions League against Copenhagen, and was then injured by another teammate, Sergio Ramos, 15 minutes into the match against Galatasaray. During the Spain-Belarus match, the captain was heard telling Napoli goalkeeper Pepe Reina that he wasn’t thinking of leaving Real Madrid, stating that he would at least get to play in the cup competitions.
On Thursday, Casillas opened the door to what would have been unthinkable this time last year: ending his career outside the confines of the Bernabéu. He did add, though, that his desire to is to remain at Real Madrid “forever” and to “compete and play more.”