Tale of two spaniards

Jose Mourinho had done it. Carlo Ancelotti is doing it now. The Portuguese and the Italian aren’t great friends but they are united by their belief that Iker Casillas isn’t the best goalkeeper at Real Madrid. Ancelotti left Casillas on the bench in Real’s La Liga season opener against Real Betis last weekend. Ancelotti is keeping faith in Diego Lopez, who came into prominence after Casillas was sidelined last season with injury and has since made the position between the sticks his own.
La Liga is only one round old but it has got a talking point because Casillas is no ordinary player. He is a larger than life figure both at Real and the national team. He has already led Spain to an unprecedented three major trophies on the trot and winning the World Cup in Brazil next year will cement his reputation. If he hadn’t denied Arjen Robben with crucial interventions in the final, Spain might not have won the World Cup in South Africa two years ago. Even though Casillas continues to be his country’s first-choice goalkeeper, his stocks have fallen at his club.
Mourinho flaunted his authority by doing something which many Spaniards consider unthinkable: relegating Casillas to the bench. Some players are more equal than others in club football. They symbolise the club like Francesco Totti at Roma and Steven Gerrard at Liverpool. Managers dare not ruffle the feathers of symbolic figures in the fear of earning the wrath of fans. Mourinho ultimately succeeded in demonstrating who was the boss. The amiable Ancelotti is the polar opposite of his Portuguese predecessor and doesn’t have a history of going on ego trips.
Everybody is wading into the debate, proffering advice to Casillas. The proud man that he is, Casillas must be hurting inside. The fine shot stopper wouldn’t have envisaged that he would be fighting for a starting place in his beloved Real team in the prime of his career.
Football can be a funny game at times. Otherwise, David Villa wouldn’t have been considered surplus to requirements at Barcelona. With Fernando Torres firing blanks brilliantly, Villa single-handedly shouldered Spain’s attack at the 2010 World Cup. A sustained spell on the sidelines as a result of a broken leg hampered his performance last season. Instead of wasting time on the bench, Villa acted swiftly to secure a move to Atletico Madrid. He showed Barca what they were missing by scoring a splendid goal against his old team in the Spanish Super Cup on Wednesday. Few forwards are gifted with his goal-scoring instincts in the game today.

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