Forgive the teasing headline, because we know what role Iker Casillas will have as he returns from the broken hand he suffered in late January. The Spain and Real Madrid captain will be Los Blancos’ number two, head coach José Mourinho has already confirmed. Winter signing Diego López will be tasked with backstopping El Real’s quest for their 10th European title.
According to Real Madrid assistant coach Aitor Karanka, Casillas “is ready to rejoin the team and will be selected,” a new and newsworthy status even if “Saint Iker” was medically cleared last week. After being left out of Real’s teams for Real Zaragoza and Galatasaray, it was worth considering whether the Madrid legend would be frozen out until Mourinho presumably leaves this summer.
“This week he has improved and we are pleased to have him with us because we are entering a decisive two-month period,” Karanka told a news conference ahead of Saturday’s clash.
“He has achieved the competitive edge necessary and will enter the squad.
“The coaching staff look for the best for the team, and tomorrow he will not play, but in the future who knows.”
Perhaps more remarkable than Casillas’ diminished status is the lack of controversy surrounding it. True, when Casillas initially started losing time this fall, there was a furor around the decision. People finally started reevaluating Casillas’s place among the world’s top goalkeepers, but with Mourinho’s attempt to fight Real’s player power culture, it was unclear the benching didn’t carry a political element.
At this point, it doesn’t seem to matter. Is Casillas’s benching politics or tactical? That conversation ended when López arrived. For whatever reason, Casillas is no longer Real Madrid’s number one, and in lieu of one of the principles ascribing a non-playing decision, there isn’t much to talk about. No matter how eye-opening the decision was, we’re out of logs to throw on the fire.
Going back to the question at hand: What role will Casillas serve? He’ll be López’s understudy. Or more to the point, he won’t assume the starting role he’d held with little interruption since 1999.
It’s not the biggest achievement of José Mourinho’s career, but it’s still pretty remarkable that he’s been able to pull off the benching of Iker Casillas without being carried out of the Bernabeu on a rail.