Not many players can boast about a more successful career spent at one club than Iker Casillas has had. Over the past 25 years, Casillas has quite simply become a Real Madrid legend so news of his pending departure to FC Porto will come as a shock to many. Once considered the best goalkeeper in the world, Casillas has been found guilty on several occasions over the past few years of making critical mistakes which in turn brought his position as Real’s undisputed number No.1 into question. Last season for example he lost his place to Diego Lopez early on only to win it back once again in the second half of the campaign after the fans protested. It’s a familiar story of late that surfaces with Casillas who has been saved from the chop a few times due to reputation alone, primarily due to all that he has done for club and country over the past two and a half decades. And to be fair, they have a point. Casillas has won it all over that time including five La Liga times, three Champions Leagues and ten other trophies with Real Madrid as well as helping Spain to lift two European Championship titles and the country’s first ever World Cup in 2010. But the time has come for the legendary keeper to depart with Real keen to sign up Manchester United and Spain stopper David De Gea as his direct replacement.
Arguably Casillas departure strengthens the negotiation hand of Manchester United as they continue to hold out on letting David De Gea join Madrid. With Real now racing against the clock to secure a new goalkeeper, United will know that Madrid’s willingness to part with more cash to secure De Gea will now increase dramatically. Keeping De Gea would be the preferred option for manager Louis Van Gaal but that looks increasingly unlikely with the player making moves himself including putting his house up for sale to ensure the switch happens. With Victor Valdes at the club, United could afford to let him leave without really having to worry about who they could get to replace him. So it looks certain that De Gea will move on but when and for how much remain the key questions. United could also use Real’s desperation to leverage their move for Sergio Ramos with the defender keen on a switch to Old Trafford. However it’s believed that Real Madrid want to keep the two deals very much separate in an attempt to reach a more favourable financial conclusion for the Spanish side.
Part of the reason for Casillas departure was in fact De Gea who insisted that he wouldn’t join Real Madrid unless Casillas left. It’s understandable that the young Spanish keeper would not want to go to a club that has a goalkeeping legend still in its ranks. Despite De Gea’s confidence in his abilities and his growing stature in Spain, he could ill afford to play second fiddle to Casillas at this important crossroads in his career. Madrid have tried in vain to convince him that he will be their undisputed number one but De Gea will know from watching other goalkeepers coming in to Real int he past that it has been hard to displace Casillas. Despite his mistakes that have on occasions cost Madrid dearly, the fans still love Casillas and expect him to play in front of all others. With Casillas gone, De Gea can own the No.1 jersey and focus his efforts on winning over the fans rather than fighting to hold on to the shirt with Casillas waiting in the wings.
At 34, Casillas still has a few good years left in him and can be a success in Portugal in a continuously improving Porto side. He may not be the tallest goalkeeper in the world but his athleticism and positioning more than makes up for it. A natural-born shot stopper and a leader at heart, Casillas will strengthen the Porto back line as they look to win back the Primeira Liga and challenge in the Champions League. Regardless of whether Casillas is a success or not during his stay in Portugal, his legendary status as one of the world best ever goalkeepers is secure. Italian goalkeeping great Gigi Buffon called him simply the best goalkeeper that had ever lived and its hard to argue with that. Like all great players, age has an effect on form and the decline that follows can be brutal on a players reputation but for Casillas it will take a lot more than just bad form to damage his legacy. A capacity crowd will give Casillas the send off from the Bernabeau that he deserves after a lifetime spent at the club, giving his all for the club that he loves and has loved him back.