Casillas needs to decide whether to stick or twist
When Los Blancos decided to part company with the mischievous Jose Mourinho last summer, Carlo Ancelotti's appointment was met with an expectation that Iker Casillas would be reinstated as Real Madrid’s No. 1 goalkeeper.
Cue disappointment in many quarters, as Real's favourite son has not experienced a single minute of La Liga action this season. Instead Diego Lopez has been preferred in the league, while Casillas has been installed as Real’s cup goalkeeper—for Copa del Rey and Champions League matches.
It's a perplexing scenario.
Vicente del Bosque has continued to pick Casillas in the middle of the sticks for the national team. When interviewed last month by Football Espana, the La Roja boss said, “he is playing in the Champions League and I don’t see any problems. Physically he’s fine.”
Yet Ancelotti arguably sees Lopez as his No. 1 ("arguably" because it depends on whether he rates La Liga as a priority competition ahead of the Champions League).
With this in mind, Casillas’ 14-year stay at Real is likely to come to an end this summer, with this season's Champions League and the summer's World Cup enabling him to showcase his undoubted talents.
Similarly, Raul ended his 16-year Bernabeu stay in 2010 after falling down the Los Blancos pecking order, as reported by ESPN reporter Dermot Corrigan, and his encouraging comments could inspire Casillas to find a new club:
Going to a new country made me recover that excitement that I did not have here [Bernabeu]. I enjoyed my football and felt more liberated. I was only thinking about playing. That was more difficult at Madrid.
At 32, Casillas is at his goalkeeping peak and should command a long list of potential suitors. Here are the five possible destinations.
Arsene Wenger may be tempted to raid Real Madrid again next summer
Ben Burrows of the Daily Mirror touted the Gunners as a possible destination. The reality is that this season Wojciech Szczesny has laid down a marker in making the Arsenal goalkeeping jersey this own despite last weekend's anomaly—their heavy defeat against Liverpool.
The 23-year-old Polish keeper has kept 12 clean sheets in 26 Premier League games this season, making an impressive 82 saves along the way. Having played understudy to Lopez, Casillas is unlikely to move to a club where he will encounter significant competition for the No.1 spot.
Hugo Lloris has been in fine form for the Lillywhites this season, to the extent that Paris Saint-Germain appear to be keen to take Les Bleus national captain back to France, according to Rob Smyth's article for The Guardian.
If this proves to be more than just a rumour, Daniel Levy is likely to drive another satisfying financial deal for Spurs and may possibly attempt another transfer coup in the form of Casillas playing at White Hart Lane.
A stint in Serie A, perhaps?
Morgan De Sanctis, soon to be 37, was signed by the Giallorossi from fierce rivals Napoli during the summer. Sanctis' 47 saves in 23 Serie A appearances this season has aided Roma's quest for the Serie A title this season.
However, they now currently sit nine points adrift leaders Juventus, but their place in next season’s Champions League looks likely.
Roma will be keen to plan for the future, and it would be a relatively smooth transition for Casillas to swap one Latin capital to another.
Casillas would quickly become a Kop favourite at Anfield
Under Brendan Rodgers' shake-up of the famous Anfield club, Simon Mignolet appeared to be a good signing based on his earlier performances this campaign.
However, the Belgian's early season form has tapered off—evident as Liverpool have kept only two clean sheets in the last 10 Premier League matches. Furthermore, the Reds have conceded 32 goals in the league to date, which could prove to be a major stumbling block if they harbour lofty ambitions to gatecrash the top three.
Mignolet’s weakness seems to be a lack of authority in commanding his area, ensuing a lack of composure among his defenders—cue the occasional calamity football exhibition.
In being one of the world's most decorated goalkeepers, Casillas' arrival at Anfield would certainly inspire a better-marshalled back line than present, and he would most likely become a fans' favourite among the world famous Kop.
Casillas could become the latest piece of the PSG jigsaw
Paris Saint-Germain / Monaco
The said duo count as one option for the purposes of this article since the virtues of both are extremely similar. Owned by owners with bottomless pockets, either club would be the ideal destination if Casillas is looking for a golden nest-egg.
Furthermore, both clubs have their superstars in Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Radamel Falcao for PSG and Monaco respectively. A Parisian life on one hand, Monte Carlo on the other—either way, it's an appealing lifestyle in addition to a competitive squad.
Currently PSG have Italian Salvatore Sirigu while Monaco’s stopper is Danijel Subasic of Croatia. While both are good goalkeepers, Casillas is the Galactico name that would severely appeal to both sets of owners.
Casillas and Pellegrini could join forces once more
England’s No 1, Joe Hart, was famously dropped after some high-profile errors earlier in the season.
He bided his time on the bench and when called upon demonstrated the skills that took him to the pinnacle of his profession.
Firmly back as first-choice at Manchester City, Hart looks in fine form, but that does not mean Manuel Pellegrini hasn’t kept tabs on his ex-goalkeeper (the Chilean was Real Madrid coach during the 2009-10 season), as reported by Sky Sports before last January's transfer window.
Playing in the Premier League, with several La Roja teammates (such as Alvaro Negredo and David Silva) could appeal to Casillas, with an attractive remuneration package to boot.
Luis Figo's transfer from Barcelona to Real Madrid caused a huge uproar
Surely not. He’s a Real Madrid legend. It would be the ultimate sin. Maybe, but it’s happened before. Luis Figo (albeit the other way) and the pig’s head—remember that one?
Few players make the move between the bitter rivals and even fewer move from Real to Barca. That said, Luis Enrique did it in 1996, and that was during his heyday with La Roja.
Barcelona's own shot-stopper, Victor Valdes, has confirmed that he will not be signing a new contract and is therefore free to negotiate with other clubs.
So Barca need a goalkeeper. And Casillas arguably needs a new club. This option would be the most difficult of all, though. He would lose his hardcore admirers, accumulated over the last 14 years, but it is not an impossible transfer.
Last September, ESPN reported that Del Bosque thought Casillas was dropped at Real for being a peacemaker between the Real Madrid and Barcelona camps, as tempers reached boiling point during Pep Guardiola and Mourinho's tenure in Spain.
With this in mind, what does Casillas owe Real? He is effectively the No. 2 keeper at the Bernabeu for the second season in succession, and a change of manager has not improved his fortunes in Madrid.
However unlikely a move is to the Camp Nou, the Catalans would certainly welcome Casillas with open arms.