In three turbulent years at Real Madrid, José Mourinho's irreconcilable relationship with Iker Casillas, a 'national institution' said Pepe, a Mourinho loyalist turned Benedict Arnold, exposed reserve goalkeeper Antonio Adán in such a humiliating manner that the 26-year-old, once deemed Casillas' heir apparent, may never recover.
"Adán is better than Iker," Mourinho stated to reporters last December (via BBC Sport), cognisant that Adán's error led to Ajax scoring and the fact he didn't impress in the 2-1 Copa del Rey defeat to Celta Vigo.
At the time, Casillas' 65 percent save percentage was a point lower than Víctor Valdés, who was harbouring intentions of leaving Barcelona, an 'irrevocable decision' he had yet to make public.
Casillas' powerlessness at commanding his box, his refusal to communicate with goalkeeping coach Silvino Louro, a close friend of Mourinho, and the Spaniard being the prime suspect of leaking the Portuguese manager's oppressive methods to the media napalmed his association with the self-titled 'Only One'.
Adán, whose first team debut came via Mourinho, knew he was a pawn in the Portuguese's cold war with Casillas, Los Blancos' saint, their stalwart and their hero.
Madridistas campaigned for the reinstatement of Casillas, meaning they were barracking against one of their own, Adán, born and bred in Madrid and a club product since 1997 (via The Guardian's Sid Lowe):
The game was only five minutes in when Adán's poor clearance gave Real Sociedad a chance and he brought down Carlos Vela. Penalty. Red card.
Rather than bemoan the penalty, or the card; rather than worry about being down to 10 men, the fans seemed delighted.
As Casillas ran on the pitch, the stadium chanted his name again: "Iker! Iker! Iker!"
It could only happen to Iker Casillas.
"I told Adán before the game that the whistles you hear were for me," said Mourinho (via ESPN FC) in a futile attempt to mentally prepare Adán for the backlash, but deep down in the Portuguese's mind, he knew Adán wasn't going to turn into Petr Čech overnight.
Adán had conceded six goals in three games (Ajax, Celta Vigo and Málaga) plus a red card in a fourth game vs. Real Sociedad.
His WhoScored player rating (6.06) is comparable with Neto, Macedo Novaes and Tim Wiese, all of whom have been dropped from a starting role this season.
|Adán (Real Madrid)||6.06/10|
So much for Adán being "better than Casillas".
By signing Diego López from Sevilla, Mourinho finally found a credible replacement for Casillas, which meant Adán, who failed to match Casillas' standards this season, despite Spain's No. 1 playing the worst football of his career, was out.
Adán had just blown the one extended run he had patiently waited for.
Then the man, who had backed him as Casillas' successor, announced (via FourFourTwo): "I should have been more proactive at the end of the first season, more demanding and more insistent. We should have brought in Diego López then."
Translation: I should never have promoted Adán, who made a fool of me.
Mourinho dropped Casillas, caused a split in his dressing room, pushed Jorge Valdano out of Real Madrid, feuded with Castilla coach Alberto Toril, argued with referees and was acid-tongued when dealing with the media. But it's the way he handled Adán which leaves the most bitter aftertaste.
Mourinho had hinted to some unrest in Adán (via Sky Sports): "He's a kid who's been at Real Madrid for 16 years, who was born in Madrid and doesn't deserve this. Why doesn't he have the right to be happy?"
His uncle Enrique Adán told Catalunya Radio (via Marca): "Adán is devastated, he's more subdued than usual and is really down in training. I talk to him often and he's in a terrible state."
When pressed on his uncle's comments, Adán said he was fine but that was the same response Robert Enke gave.
Enke, who had a traumatic experience as a Barcelona player, lost his battle with depression in 2009, five years removed from his last game for the Blaugrana.
"He was thrown to the wolves," recounted Valdés when discussing Enke's time at Barça (via The Guardian).
The same can be applied to Adán, collateral damage in Mourinho's vendetta against Casillas.