AC Milan stopper Diego Lopez has implied that Jose Mourinho is to blame for his switch to the San Siro from Real Madrid, claiming that The Special One acted as a shield for the immense pressure at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Mourinho surprised the footballing world when he replaced the long-serving Iker Casillas with Lopez in the 2012/13 season, but that decision appeared vindicated as the Spaniard produced a string of impressive performances. Of course there were just as many people in Spain who backed Casillas as backed Lopez, creating something of an unprecedented rift between the sticks at Los Blancos.
Lopez at Madrid
When Mourinho then left to return to Chelsea at the end of the 2013 campaign his replacement, Carlo Ancelotti, stuck with Lopez, only fielding Casillas during cup matches. However as his maiden season in Spain came to an end the Italian boss offloaded Lopez to Milan, leaving Casillas as the undisputed number one.
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As Lopez confirmed via an interview with Canal +1 however, he thinks that it was Mourinho’s departure that ultimately left his position untenable for the future.
The Mourinho effect
"I knew what was going to happen. In the conversation with Mourinho [prior to his move to the club] it was mentioned, but later I had to be judged based on my matches," he said.
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"Mourinho made it very clear that he would play whoever played better and that he had nothing against Iker, and that I was not his precious child. I want to make it clear, because that's how it was. Maybe Mourinho was the shield for the critics, and when he left the target passed to me. Ancelotti trusted in me but I had an immense magnifying glass on me. Almost nobody [realised] that. I felt sorry for the image of the club."
Since leaving the bright lights of the Spanish capital the 33-year-old has served as goalkeeper for a struggling Milan side looking to reinforce their dominance in Serie A. Filippo Inzaghi’s men are only eighth in Italy’s top flight, meaning that they will once more struggle to qualify for the Champions League.
In contrast Casillas has kept Lopez’s replacement, Costa Rica number one Keylor Navas, on the bench, though rumours persist in stating that Manchester United’s David De Gea is a summer target for Florentino Perez as he looks to add another Galactico to his roster.
If De Gea does arrive off the back of a phenomenal campaign in England he’ll almost certainly oust Casillas, though whether or not the latter will move before he has the chance to do so remains to be seen.
As for Lopez’s claim that Mourinho shielded him from the spotlight at Real it’s a fairly substantiated claim. The Chelsea boss has been credited in the past for using himself to lift pressure off of players when they need it most, whether that be via his comments to the media or decisions he makes with regards to the team.
Such an approach to management can have its ups and downs, but for the most part the players who have worked under Mourinho agree that his style does far more good than harm.