Real Madrid 2013/14: Iker Casillas or Diego Lopez?

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Real Madrid 2013/14: Iker Casillas or Diego Lopez?
Denis Doyle/Getty Images
Will Iker Casillas be Real Madrid's No 1 next season?

Jose Mourinho’s decision to choose Diego Lopez ahead of Iker Casillas last season was arguably the straw that broke the Bernabeu camel’s back. But was his decision justified? And who will new manager Carlo Ancelotti pick as his No 1?

On his way out of the Bernabeu, Mourinho stoked the fire during an interview with The Guardian’s Sid Lowe in early May.

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. I asked but he didn't come. I didn't do enough to bring him in and that's a pity.

The buck does stop with the coach, everyone knows that, but picking anyone ahead of a Los Blancos and La Roja institution was always going to end badly.

Many expect Casillas to regain his position as Real Madrid’s No 1 goalkeeper under Ancelotti. However, despite Real's unyielding loyalty to him and his consistent top-end performances over the years, is he the correct choice?

Where better to start than some statistics in determining whether Mourinho's comments were justified.

Iker Casillas' finest Real moments

The following analysis has been compiled using last season’s La Liga data sourced from Both keepers appeared in an equal range of games. 19 for Casillas and 16 for Lopez. Importantly, both players faced the other teams in La Liga's top four once—Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Real Sociedad.

Real's Win / Loss Ratio with Each Goalkeeper

- Both goalkeepers enjoyed 12 wins, but Lopez had a better return (75 percent vs. 63 percent) culminating in 2.44 points per game compared to 2.11 for Casillas.

- Extrapolated over a 38-game season, Lopez's figures would have resulted in 93 points compared to Casillas' 80. This would not have made an impact in the league placings since Barcelona finished top with 100 points.

  Casillas    Lopez  
 Games 19   16  
 Wins 12  63 percent  12  75 percent 
 Loss  16 percent 6 percent 
 Points  40    39  
 Average (p/g)  2.11    2.44  

That said, goalkeepers cannot determine whether their team wins since they make minimal contribution to goals scored. However, their own performance does have a direct correlation to how many, if any, goals are conceded.

Best moments of Diego Lopez

Goals Conceded

Here, Casillas demonstrates his superior quality.

- Lopez conceded 20 goals (1.25 average) compared to Casillas' 17 (0.89 average).

- Casillas kept clean sheets in 42 percent of his games, compared to 13 percent for Lopez.

  Casillas   Lopez  
Games 19   16  
Goals Conceded 17   20  
Average (p/g) 0.89   1.25  
Clean Sheets 8 42 percent 2

13 percent

Saves  30 64 percent 45

69 percent

Analysing Placement of Goals Conceded and Shots Saved

- Of the 17 goals Casillas' conceded, five (29 percent) were low down to his right.

- Lopez conceded seven out of 20 (35 percent) goals low down to his left.

- Lopez made 45 saves in total, and 17 (38 percent) shots were fired low to the keeper's left. This does tend to suggest that the opposition had done their homework by attempting to exploit Lopez's presumed weakness.

Handling and Distribution

- Casillas claimed an average 81 percent of crosses compared to Lopez's 91 percent.

- Both score an average of 63-to-64 percent of overall distribution success.

Interestingly, Lopez has a 100 percent out-of-hand distribution rate compared to Casillas' 90 percent. This is mainly because he takes the safer option (averaging 23 metres for handling distribution) compared to Casillas' more penetrative, and certainly riskier, 37 metres.

Preseason and Final Conclusion 

Lopez started the first few preseason games while international players such as Casillas were granted additional time to recuperate.

Casillas made his Real debut under Ancelotti against Everton on August 3. He was also in goal for Wednesday night's friendly win against Mourinho's Chelsea—a 3-1 win in the final match of Madrid's USA tour.

Based on the statistics, Casillas' on-field presence ensures Real concede less goals, which is a goalkeeper's primary objective. Although Lopez is a very good option for second choice, he is unlikely to ever be more than that, particularly since he and Casillas only have a six-month age gap.

Given Ancelotti is likely to have no desire in rocking the boat, Casillas will probably be back to where he was before the Mourinho debacle—Real Madrid's No 1.

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