Iker Casillas doesn't miss games. Football is in his blood, he lives for it, and ultimately, missing a game for him is like a dog going without his daily walk for a year. Whether you understand the metaphor or not, Casillas is the most consistent goalkeeper around.
So when he missed a La Liga game for Real Madrid for the first time since 2002, which by my count was 10 years ago, this was obviously a massive shock. This only includes when he has been fit for duty; nevertheless, a remarkable record for the 31-year-old. And rightly so, for Casillas has long been heralded as the world's best goalkeeper. But then, Spanish keeper Casillas met Jose Mourinho and suddenly his world came crashing down.
Since making his professional debut back in 1999 for Real Madrid, Casillas has made 649 appearances for the squad. And with him being just 31, Casillas could easily add another 300 to that tally. But not under Mourinho; not at this rate.
The Spain and Real Madrid captain has repeatedly clashed with his manager Jose Mourinho, publicly criticising him for his tactical decisions and, furthermore, supporting teammate Sergio Ramos when he too confronted Mourinho.
As a result, Casillas was dropped.
And that's the way Mourinho operates. Doubt him, and you're out of the team. Play poorly in the first 30 minutes? Mourinho will substitute you. If he deems your effort to be anything less than 100 percent, you're out of the team.
With Casillas, it's all about player power for Mourinho. Or rather, eradicating it. Mourinho likes to have full control of a club, and that's essentially why his spell at Chelsea came to an abrupt end in September 2007. Roman Abramovich wasn't prepared to allow Mourinho to control the club since he was just the manager, and it seems at Real Madrid, president Florentino Perez is on the same wavelength.
But sacking Mourinho for dropping a player, no matter how key they are, should never be allowed.
At the end of the day, a manager makes a change in the team if he is unhappy with the way things are going. Mourinho dropped Angel Di Maria the other week for a poor performance against Celta Vigo. Di Maria was back in the team the next match and played superbly. To me, that's the sign of a good manager—identifying when a player is losing focus.
And perhaps, Mourinho felt that Casillas had grown too powerful at the Bernabeu, knowing that his competition wasn't strong enough to take his place away from him.
Sure, replacing him with Antonio Adan wasn't a wise move. The 25-year-old is no more than your average Spaniard, a backup in all but the worst injury crisis, with Los Merengues severely lacking a suitable replacement should Casillas be injured. In addition to this, the games that Adan has played are as follows: lost 3-2 vs. Malaga; won 4-3 vs. Real Zaragoza (Adan was sent off).
For all of the criticism he received for dropping Casillas, Mourinho simply replied that Adan was, at the time, the better of the two. Highly unlikely, but it showed that the 49-year-old would not back down, and that he was in charge.
Sure, this season has been far from ideal, with the club a massive 16 points behind runaway leaders Barcelona at the halfway point, but they won the La Liga title last season under Mourinho. They may not win it this season, but there's always the Copa del Rey and Champions League. If they struggled in all competitions, then perhaps it would be a justified decision to fire Mourinho.
Chelsea regret sacking Mourinho back in 2007. The same would apply in 2013 if Mr. Perez gave Mourinho his marching orders. Self-proclaimed or not, Mourinho is "special."
There's no denying that.