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Farewell, Diego López: Thanks, and good luck

The greatest example of professionalism leaves the team hurt by the crossfire between confronted sides in a conflict he was never part of.

Michael Regan

Real Madrid's greatest controversy in the last few years has been finally cut down in the easiest way. Apparently, the Casillas-López debate needed to be finished and our managing staff have decided to encourage the not-so-famous Diego to leave the team while the legendary Iker will stay and fight Keylor Navas for a spot.

Although I understand why this has been Real Madrid's decision, I can't accept it. Seeing Diego defending Real Madrid's goal was the ultimate proof that life will smile back at you if you work hard enough, and the fact that he has finally lost his duel against Goliath is just disheartening.

Diego is a true born madridista who joined our youth academy at the age of 19 and reached the A-team five years later. Like most of our canteranos, he had to leave and managed to build a successful career in Villarreal, but his transfer to Sevilla did not come at the right time, so he had to sit in the bench below Andrés Palop. It was a hard time for him, but Casillas's unfortunate injury in Mestalla was his one-in-a-lifetime stroke of luck. He was summoned by Mourinho and he did not hesitate to become Real Madrid's goalkeeper a year and a half ago. His dream had come true.

Although many Spanish journalists have tried to convince us that he did not, Diego López knew which his task in Real Madrid was: work, work, work. He trained hard to get fit as soon as possible and his first games in Madrid were stunning. For the first time since the season started, I felt relatively safe when we were defending a set piece, but his agility and his reflexes were also fantastic, and this is something I was not expecting to see. Our coach was happy and so was our goalkeeper.

In fact, I would say all the madridistas were happy at that time, but Pandora's box was opened when Casillas recovered from his injury. Everyone was expecting that Casillas would get his spot back, but our coach had a different idea and this was something most journalists decided not to accept. Mourinho had crossed the line and this started a civil war that I believe we will never truly recover from. The whole family of madridismo was splitted into mourinhistas and casillistas, and Diego López was just caught in the middle, defended by ones and attacked by the others, just focused in his "work, work, work" mantra. He never raised his voice. He never spoke a harsh word about any teammate. He just worked and defended our goal the best he could.

The season ended with no titles for Real Madrid and Mourinho left the team. Again, most journalists were expecting that Casillas would be the starter with Ancelotti, but all the alarms rang when Diego was in the lineup against Betis and Granada. The press started to attack Ancelotti and Diego again, and perhaps this was a crucial reason that moved Carletto to give Casillas the spot in both Cup competitions. In the meantime, Diego kept working and, again, his performance was excellent throughout the season, although many people will only remember his mistake (if it can be called so) against Atlético. On the other hand, Casillas was not that brilliant, but the truth is that he was able to lift both trophies Real Madrid took part on with him as a starter, although I would say we won these trophies in spite of Casillas, who has never performed as we should expect from him, who was the best goalkeeper in the world in the last decade.

The season ended and rumors came back again. All reporters agreed that something had to be done with Real Madrid's goal, that someone had to come and that Casillas and/or López would have to leave the team to end the unsustainable situation that controversy generated (I can't imagine how unsustainable this situation could have been had we not won our tenth Champions League). Iker's horrible performance in the World Cup together with his mistakes in both Cup finals, which could have deprived us from winning those titles, gave Diego the advantage. This advantage was even enlarged after our game against Manchester United in which Casillas should have avoided all three goals we received. Reportedly, he was Vecchi's favourite too, even after Keylor arrived.

It would have seemed clear that Casillas should have filled his bags and headed to the airport, but his contract is much stronger than that of Diego's. As any employee in any big company, Casillas was not willing to leave the team and see his salary cut down, but no team in Europe could satisfy his demands. Real Madrid's managing staff decided they would not pay Casillas an acquittance and the only remaining alternative was to sell Diego, who joins AC Milan today after he passes his medical test.

A great professional leaves the team and I am sad about that. It is just unfair. Had he not arrived in the middle of the war between Mourinho and the press (or was it between Mourinho and Casillas?), his fate would have been different. Indeed, many journalists have been claiming that he did not deserve the spot, that he was Real Madrid's goalkeeper for non football-related reasons. He has born the most intense pressure and yet his performance has been more than remarkable. It may be true that his natural conditions are not as good as those of Iker's, but he has made up for that with great effort, and I am sure that he would make a better couple with Navas than Iker will be, since these two have similar styles.

But it is all for nothing now. Diego leaves the team while Navas and Casillas fight for a spot that, as of today, should be handed to Keylor, the best goalkeeper in the past World Cup. If that is the case, the debate will be reopened, because the press will not accept that the almighty Iker stays in the bench. Luckily for Diego, he will not have to put up with the boos and the insults from the fans, or with the disrespectful articles published in As or Marca. Instead, he will go to Milan, a place where he will be valued strictly for his work, where he is considered the best goalkeeper in Europe. I have to admit my heart has turned a little rossonero because of this move.

Good luck, Diego.

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