Diego Lopez has completed his move to AC Milan. The 32-year-old goalkeeper heads out of the Spanish setup for the first time in his career and leaves Real Madrid after a second tenure of little over 18 months at the club. Real Madrid announced the move on Twitter:
Milan have captured an experienced, top-quality stopper in Lopez. He offers a calming presence at the back, boasts excellent powers of concentration and will command Milan's back four with authority.
The player is famous for halting Iker Casillas' seemingly indispensable aura at Real Madrid. Former boss Jose Mourinho risked the wrath of many by dropping the long-time No. 1, a decision that is still felt at the Bernabeu today. Casillas hasn't been the same since being forced to stay on the bench and was limited to cup appearances during the 2013-14 season with Carlo Ancelotti.
Lopez, meanwhile, made 36 appearances in La Liga for the capital-based club last year, per WhoScored.com. Ancelotti indicated Casillas still faces a fight for the starting spot in Lopez's absence, as the signing of Keylor Navas suggests Madrid's long-time national hero will continue to have his minutes limited. It is perhaps sentimental reasons that kept Casillas in Madrid over Lopez, not current ability.
Rather ironically, Lopez has just one cap for Spain largely due to Casillas' dominance. This came in a 2009 friendly win over Macedonia, where he emerged as a substitute.
Will Diego Lopez win Serie A with AC Milan?
Milan have taken advantage of the situation at Real, however, and appear extremely happy with their signing. CEO Adriano Galliani named Lopez "the strongest goalkeeper in Europe" prior to arrival, reported by Gazzetta dello Sport and via Goal.com's Mark Doyle.
While a certain Manuel Neuer will take offence to this remark, Galliani's quote underlines the Italian side's coup. Milan have rarely possessed a consistently confident keeper since the days of Dida, meaning Lopez has the ability to be an instant hit at the San Siro.
Prior to signing, Lopez confirmed his goals include "winning (the) Scudetto and reaching Europe" with the side, reported by Sky Italia journalist Gianluca Di Marzio. "This is a big step for my career, I arrive in the best club in Italy," said Lopez.
The new arrival will likely do battle with Christian Abbiati for a place in the starting lineup. Abbiati's prolonged playing time has been by default over the past couple of seasons, but the 37-year-old will likely take on a much lesser role now Lopez has been drafted in.
Bleacher Report UK's Sam Tighe indicates a longstanding problem is now sorted for Milan:
Catching up: Diego Lopez an outstanding capture for Milan. Finally the GK conundrum is solved!— Sam Tighe (@stighefootball) August 10, 2014
Filippo Inzaghi has focused on strengthening his defence throughout the summer. The new Milan boss adds Lopez to a list of transfers that includes the return of loanee Michelangelo Albertazzi, the signing of Alex, a permanent deal for Adil Rami and Pablo Armero, per the Associated Press and via Fox Sports. Michael Agazzi has also been brought in to offer further cover between the sticks.
Lopez is sure to be one of Milan's key players next season. The side finished a disappointing seventh last campaign, conceding 49 goals during a year which saw European football pass the team by. Inzaghi's reinforcements will be confident of improving upon this disappointing record.
The Milan faithful will certainly feel a sudden rejuvenation of confidence when looking at those trying to protect their goal. Lopez is the type of player who deals with pressure by performing excellently, so expect him to command right from the off. He could turn out to be one of the signings of the summer, especially if the club begins challenging for silverware once more.