Iker Casillas vs. Jose Mourinho: The Story of What Went Wrong at Real Madrid
At Cornella-El Prat on Saturday night, Iker Casillas received rapturous amounts of applause from the home supporters when his name was announced among the Real Madrid substitutes.
Seconds later, Jose Mourinho's name was whistled and jeered.
It was obvious where the Espanyol fans were seated in the squabble which has dominated newspaper columns this season—firmly on Casillas' side of the fence.
The goalkeeper has been the Spanish No. 1 for successes in two European Championships and one World Cup; Jose is just a Portuguese man in charge of Madrid.
Taking sides has not always been so easy for Los Blancos fans though, who have drifted between the two at different points in the season.
Let's take a look at the timeline of events...
Casillas Dropped vs. Malaga
It was "purely technical" Mourinho would later say, after dropping Casillas for Madrid's 3-2 defeat to Malaga in December.
Antonio Adan was the man shoved in goal, and with hindsight it does feel that "shoved" is the right word.
Casillas, on the face of things, took it well, telling La Sexta television: "The coach decides which team he thinks is best for each match and you need to accept the decision."
The press didn't take it so well in the Spanish capital, and what followed was 10 days of "Why was San Iker dropped?" and "Will he play after the winter break?"
Adan Starts Again, but There's a Twist
Mourinho stuck to his guns, and for the next game—the visit of Real Sociedad—Adan started in goal.
At this point Madrid fans knew where they stood.
Like at Cornella, Casillas received a fantastic reception; Jose whistles.
But within five minutes, Adan was red carded.
He took down the clean through Carlos Vela and on came Iker Casillas—a sign of something the Portuguese coach shouldn't tinker with?
Normality Restored? Not Quite...
San Iker was back in goal, with all his 143 caps and over 500 appearances for Real Madrid worth of experience.
Adan returned from suspension, Casillas continued in goal.
Until another twist, Madrid and Spain's goalkeeper broke his hand in a Copa del Rey tie against Valencia; it was revealed it would keep him out for sometime.
Then the next day, Marca ran a front cover which said Casillas, Sergio Ramos and one other player went to Florentino President to say either Mou leaves or they do in the summer.
The Arrival of Diego Lopez
With the clock ticking down in the January transfer window, Madrid brought in Sevilla 'keeper, and former Los Blancos player, Diego Lopez for €3.5 million.
The 6'5" stopper has since played every match and, after returning from injury, Casillas has been forced to remain on the bench.
While the club fought for the collective good of La Decima, things, on the surface, remained calm.
It could even be said that, during this period of matches, Mourinho began to win back around the Madridstas.
Since Champions League Elimination...
Since the Dortmund defeat it's seemed evident Mourinho will flee the Spanish capital this summer, and he's managed to slip in a few back-handed comments since.
It seems fairly obvious that the former (and next?) Chelsea manager was criticizing the press and Casillas:
Would I do anything differently if I had the chance to do the past three years over again? I should have brought in Diego Lopez after my first year. We didn't do enough to sign him. It's a real shame.
My players like to be treated the same way. They want a coach who coaches with his head and, if that happens, there is no problem. The problem happens when someone thinks he is above the rest.
The press don't go on the plane with the team? I'm sorry but I think that is correct. The press are not allowed in at training sessions? Correct. The press don't know the starting XI? Correct. I don't put your beloved children in the team? Correct.
The Reaction After
Pepe, Mourinho's countryman, has since defended Iker Casillas following his manager's words:
"There needs to be a little more respect to Iker, he's well loved. What the coach said was not the most appropriate. Iker is a player who is part of Madrid. He's an institution, both in this club and in Spain."
The 50-year-old coach hit back by dropping Pepe, and it is unlikely the 31-year-old will play again this season; although Raphael Varane's injury makes things interesting.
And as for Iker? He's just kept his head, relatively, down, and remains focused on his career with the nine time European Champions:
"My future is at Real Madrid. I have a contract with the club and I've been here since I was nine years old. It's been my club for my whole life and it's where I want to be."
No one person is bigger than the team, or indeed the club, but Casillas is as much as a part of the institution as anyone at the moment.
Mourinho may leave this summer and if, as expected, Iker stays, the incoming manager will do well not to open the wounds which have plagued the dressing room this season.