Iker Casillas: Are His Best Days Behind Him at Real Madrid?

Rob TrainFeatured ColumnistJanuary 22, 2013

MADRID, SPAIN - DECEMBER 16: Goalkeeper Iker Casillas of Real Madrid CF looks dejected as he leaves the pitch after the match during the La Liga match between Real Madrid CF and RCD Espanyol at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on December 16, 2012 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

Everybody knows what's it like to get jaded in your job. Looking at the clock, thinking about what to have for dinner.

That seems to be how Iker Casillas is passing the time between the sticks at Madrid this season. Much like Victor Valdes at Barcelona, it can't be ruled out that Casillas has simply had enough of life at the Bernabeu.

Jose Mourinho's exercise in public relations backfired spectacularly when he dropped Casillas for a match against Malaga in December. Citing loss of form, the Real coach threw Antonio Adan into a first team match, and the raw keeper shipped three. 

In his next league match Adan lasted five minutes, although he was slightly unfortunate to see red for his infraction. Carlos Vela appeared to make the most of his opportunity. Adan, although clearly a decent enough keeper, has not.

That is part of the problem with Casillas. The Mostoles-born stopper has been raised to the status of a saint in Spain. He has made more appearances for his country than any other player in history and stands third on the all-time appearance list for Real behind Manolo Sanchis and Raul.

Casillas has never had much in the way of competition at Real and has never faced a serious challenge to his place in the national side, despite Spain's embarrassment of riches in the position. Adan is not a genuine challenger, neither was Jerzy Dudek.

Complacency would be too strong a word, but Casillas is hardly kept on his toes for either club or country.

Playing behind a patched-up defense involving one or both of Raul Albiol and Ricardo Carvalho has at least made things reasonably interesting for now. According to ESPN stats, Casillas has only had to make 31 saves in the league this season. 

Many question the relationship between Barcelona and Jose Manuel Pinto, but it should be noted that Pinto has the same number of Zamora trophies for the league's least-breached keeper as Casillas. Valdes is pretty secure at Barça, even after announcing his desire to leave, but he knows that Pinto is at least a worthy adversary.

Casillas, as a keeper, pretty much has it all. He is commanding in his area, solid under high balls, distributes well and has incredible reflexes. At 31, he should be coming into his prime. Goalkeepers will always be under the spotlight for mistakes. Casillas makes very few.

The boffins at the International Federation of Football History and Statistics put their heads together last week and named Casillas the second best keeper in the last quarter of a century, behind Gianluigi Buffon.

The Daily Telegraph ran a story on Tuesday morning regarding David de Gea. In it Casillas is mentioned as possible target for Manchester United. Liverpool could be added to that list as well, with Pepe Reina on the decline.

Valdes cited a desire to try "a different sort of football and culture" when he decided not to renew his contract at Barcelona.

It could be a breath of fresh air for Casillas as well. There's only so much anyone can take at a club like Real Madrid, as Jose Antonio Camacho and Vicente del Bosque can attest.

Casillas recently stated he might like to try the MLS at some stage. It's probably a bit early for that, though but the Premier League? He'd have no shortage of suitors.