One of the stranger sights this season so far has been Spain and Real Madrid captain Iker Casillas’ continued presence on the Madrid bench.
The 32-year-old goalkeeper, who has played 476 times for Madrid and has been capped a record 149 times for Spain is widely regarded as one of the greatest keepers in the history of the game.
Madrid manager Carol Ancelotti, however, prefers Diego Lopez, 31, with a single international cap to his name.
Casillas lost his spot in the side last December when he was dropped by Jose Mourinho after a 2-2 home draw against modest Espanyol. His replacement Adan was injured shortly afterwards, and Diego Lopez shipped in as emergency cover.
As the Mourinho-Casillas relationship turned increasingly poisonous, with daily leaks to the press and the most vocal section of the supporters taking Mourinho’s side against their former hero, Lopez stepped in and produced some impressive performances.
With the arrival of Ancelotti though, it was assumed Casillas would be instantly restored to the number one spot. However, it now transpires he has an even bigger problem to surmount: he’s not tall enough.
Spanish sports daily Marca reports that since becoming a manager the Italian has always preferred keepers who are taller than 1.9m. Casillas only measures 1.85m.
Lopez may have won fewer World Cups, but stands 1.96m.
The paper lays out a long line of keepers who have played for teams managed by Ancelotti, from the monster Australian Zeljko Kalac (2.02m) to Luca Bucci (1.80m), who lasted eight games at Parma under Ancelotti before losing his place, to Gianluigi Buffon (1.91m), and Angelo Peruzzi (1.81m), who played nine games under Ancelotti at Juventus before being replaced by Edwin van der Sar (1.99m).
Although Ancelotti has said “Casillas will have his chance this season”, it is unthinkable that a player of Casillas’ pedigree will spend any season, let alone a World Cup year, sitting down.
Diego Lopez will start for Madrid against Bilbao before the players go on international break.
Manchester City, where patience with Joe Hart is said to be wearing a little thin, are the latest team mentioned for a possible switch. Manager Manuel Pellegrini said on Match of the Day he expected to bring another player before deadline day. Did he mean Casillas?
City are currently 2/1 second favourites to win the Premier League. Madrid are 6/5 second favourites to win La Liga.
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