When it rains it most definitely pours. Just ask Iker Casillas, he’ll tell you without a moment of hesitation.
Once heralded as the undisputed best goalkeeper in the world, Real Madrid’s talismanic stopper has fallen on hard times, and last night’s woeful showing during Spain’s 2-0 defeat at the hands of Chile - a result which saw them tumble out of the World Cup at the earliest stage - was the latest in a string of questionable performances. His decision to punch a relatively tame free-kick to the feet of Charles Aranguiz led to Chile’s second on the night, and stunk of a ‘keeper who is severely low on confidence.
Preceding that error was of course the 5-1 drubbing at the hands of Louis van Gaal’s Holland in the opening round of fixtures, in which Casillas was the focal point of all criticisms. Go back even further and you arrive at the Champions League final, a competition Real Madrid were arguably fortunate to win after the 33-year-old’s mistake gifted Atletico Madrid the lead. Such is the nature of the game that the Spain captain has become the subject of widespread discussion over his ability to mix it with the best.
After reading the majority of headlines this morning you would assume that Casillas has already thrown in the towel and retired. He’s too old, he’s past his best, he’s cost Spain their World Cup defence etc etc, blah blah blah. True, he contributed significantly to his national team’s demise over the two defeats they suffered, but to claim that he’s done and dusted at the highest level is ridiculous. On the contrary, it would be a surprise to me if he doesn’t end up in the Premier League next season - especially if Arsene Wenger has his transfer head firmly screwed on.
The talk of a new ‘keeper arriving in north London this summer appears to have somewhat slipped under the radar in recent weeks, caused in no small part by the hype surrounding Francesc Fabregas’ future. That doesn’t mean the situation has cleared up any. The fact remains that Wojciech Szczesny finds himself the only recognised man between the sticks currently on the books at the Emirates Stadium, and there’s plenty of fans who would feel more at ease were he not the only option.
At the very least Wenger must sign someone to compete with his Polish stopper, and in this respect he can do no better than Casillas. Though currently in the midst of a sticky patch of form the Spaniard has evidenced time and time again why he has managed to hold down his first-team spot for Madrid for the better part of a decade, and with players in his position usually hitting their peak later on in their careers there’s every reason to believe that he could yet bow out with his dignity and reputation regained and fully intact.
WOULD CASILLAS LEAVE?
At one point in time it would have been inconceivable to imagine Casillas calling any stadium other than the Santiago Bernabeu home, but that sadly no longer appears to be the case. Not only does it look like he would once more play second fiddle to Diego Lopez were he to remain in Madrid next year, but there’s sure to be plenty of Spanish supporters now drastically u-turning on their decisions to stand by him following the embarrassment endured over the past two weeks.
His love for the club would surely prevent a cross-La Liga switch, and a move to the Premier League will certainly be the most attractive proposition on the table thanks to the money clubs like Arsenal can throw at him.
A manager with Wenger’s years in the game is unlikely to be put off with Casillas’ recent blip, particularly given the fact that he’s been unerringly consistent in the past.
Madrid could well be ready to allow him to leave this summer, and Arsenal’s current goalkeeping predicament means that there’s very much room for manoeuvre. The Frenchman has great knowledge of the game and could well aid the Spanish star in resurrecting his career as the Gunners look to fight for the Premier League title.
He may not be public hero number one at this moment in time, but only a fool would write Casillas off for good.