While Carlo Ancelotti continues to stick with Diego Lopez as his first-choice goalkeeper at Real Madrid and the rest of us ponder as to whether the Italian is right to leave Iker Casillas on the bench, Spain manager Vicente del Bosque seems to possess no doubt over who his No. 1 is.
Speaking to AS in the build to last week's World Cup qualification win over Finland, which Casillas started, Del Bosque offered valuable support to his stopper (via Goal):
Casillas is captain of the [national] side and an important part of our team. I would never say he has to play at Madrid. I am in favour of Casillas, in favour of his history and his trajectory.
He is going through a bad time and needs the support of those who have respect and admiration. It's not a comfortable situation for anyone, but mostly it is uncomfortable for him. But having said that, I am not going against anyone, only going in favour of Casillas.
During Friday night's 2-0 victory over Finland, Casillas collected his 150th cap for la Roja—during which he has managed 89 clean sheets. However, will there come a time when a lack of games forces Del Bosque to reconsider his opinion on his first-choice 'keeper? If he does, in Victor Valdes, Pepe Reina, Diego Lopez and David de Gea, he's hardly lacking alternatives.
Casillas hasn't played for los Blancos in a competitive fixture since fracturing his hand against Valencia in January. And if he fails to win his place back, that's hardly ideal during any year, yet alone one with a World Cup at the end.
Perhaps that's why Monday morning's papers were once again abound with rumours over his future.
Antony Kastrinakis of The Sun suggests that both Arsenal and Manchester City are keeping tabs on Casillas' situation, with a January move for the 'keeper on the cards if he fails to make himself Ancelotti's No. 1 by then.
If Casillas opts to remain at the Bernabeu given all the emotion involved, but fails to become a regular, surely Del Bosque has to question whether he can continue to use him as his No. 1?
Victor Valdes' last few appearances for Spain have been good, while he's started the season excellently for Barcelona as well—is it only right, as with outfield players, that the man who is starting regularly and playing well wins the place in the side?
That would be the logical solution, but Del Bosque's favouritism of San Iker runs deeper once you scratch beneath the surface. La Roja's manager feels that Casillas has become a victim at his club due to his peacekeeping role between Barca and Madrid players in the national set up. Per Yahoo!:
[Casillas] helped the team to move on and continue winning things like the (2012) European Championship. This did not go down well and perhaps had a detrimental effect also on Iker. He was a key figure in fostering harmony in the national team.
Perhaps this is why Del Bosque remains so loyal to Casillas? Perhaps he feels slightly culpable to the situation he finds himself in at Madrid. He was also the manager who—admittedly, not immediately—made Casillas Real Madrid's outright first-choice goalkeeper back in 2002.
For the sake of himself and for the football world, it's best if Casillas is playing in goal week in, week out. For the sake of the national team, it seems the opportunity to build on all those caps and clean sheets isn't going to be taken from his hands anytime soon, though.