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Iker Casillas left Real Madrid with dignity

In doing so has surpassed anything that may have gone before him in the last three months.

Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Whatever's been said within the confines of the Madrid changing rooms last week or in Iker's final press conference, nobody can deny that he has left the Real Madrid club with dignity; and in doing so has surpassed anything that may have gone before him in the last three months.  Despite the reaction from his parents in their recent interview  - which is only natural - Iker has so far declined to comment in detail on what must surely have been the most difficult period of his distinguished career.

I don't think anyone ever imagined that this long-running saga would have had a happy ending.  However, it's sad - no it's heart-breaking - to see the end of a twenty-five year association with the club he loves come to such an abrupt halt.  Maybe on reflection, though, the ending hasn't really been so abrupt after all.  From the moment Iker sustained that unfortunate wrist injury which resulted in Jose Mourinho bringing in Diego Lopez, a situation began to unfold.

The coach and Iker reportedly didn't see eye to eye; and the wrist injury provided an opportunity for Mourinho to bring in another goalkeeper.  However, as the wrist healed and having regained his general fitness after weeks of treatment and rehab, Iker needed precious game time to fine tune his eyes and his reflexes to the level they were at before the injury.

The game time didn't come, though, at least not at Madrid.  Diego Lopez had been declared the favourite between the sticks for La Liga games and it was decided that Iker would be the ‘Cup goalkeeper'.  He managed that with dignity and style as well; King Juan Carlos of Spain famously holding on to Iker's leg to steady the Madrid captain as he climbed on to the edge of the Royal Box to raise the Copa del Rey trophy aloft after beating Barca in Valencia.

If everyone in football is so united in agreement that the position of goalkeeper is so highly specialised then how could Iker Casillas ever be expected to perform to the highest standard by playing in Cup games only?   Consistency is meant to be so important in football, or so we are told, yet we had the situation where the goalkeepers were going to be changed no matter how well or how badly either of them played.  For Iker, this meant that there were few opportunities to rectify mistakes.  Errors made which were likely attributed to a shortage of match time were unable to be redeemed because the next few games were league fixtures and it would be ‘all change' again.

Unfortunate mistakes would be remembered and subjected to repeated and often cruel media analysis.  For a goalkeeper there is no hiding place and the results of a missed cross or being a bit out with your timing are there for all to see; and of course you know that if that awkward ball comes in the final few minutes of the match and you don't take it cleanly then the chances are that that's the part of the game the people are going to remember.

With Iker virtually being treated as the reserve goalkeeper for almost a whole season, it's not surprising that a loss of confidence occurred; the psychological aspect of that situation must have been incredibly difficult for him to deal with.  Not surprisingly, the effects eventually carried over into the national team where Vicente Del Bosque had stuck by his captain but Iker responded to the challenge in the knowledge that the experienced Del Bosque trusted his judgement.

As last season drew to a close the effects of the previous year had begun to take their toll.  Patience was in short supply from some areas of the terraces and on one occasion support was also famously perceived to be lacking from the goalkeeping coach.  Yet those of us who so desperately wanted Iker to perform as we know he can were gradually being outmanoeuvred by those who wanted change.  Despite everything, he continued to hold his head high and behave with dignity; with the exception of a few choice words on one occasion that is, but even footballers are human.

By the time the season ended, Iker seemed fated to move on.  David De Gea was being touted as Real Madrid's new goalkeeper and it didn't seem to matter that Iker was already in possession of the number one kit once again.  Like Sergio Ramos moving to Old Trafford in return, the deal was accepted as having being concluded - but was a deal ever actually brokered?

Throughout the latter part of the season it can't have been easy coming in to the club every morning while reading that you're going to be replaced every time you pick up a newspaper or go on the internet.  For this to then continue into the summer and over to Las Rozas with the national team - and David De Gea - it's easy to see where the whole affair begins to grind you down.

There has got to be an accumulative effect with this all this and even hardened and seasoned professionals like Iker will find that things eventually begin to take their toll.  When Iker sustained his wrist injury and was effectively demoted to being the second choice under Mourinho, that's when the problems started and he never really got the chance to regain his place in the team over a decent length of time until last season.  However, as a difficult season unfolded it soon became obvious that any mistakes weren't going to be tolerated and there must have been times when he's picked up the ball and thought "these guys have short memories".

Now Porto beckons and Iker will link up once again with former Real Madrid Castilla coach Julen Lopetegui - himself a former goalkeeper.  It's going to be strange seeing Iker turning out for any other club apart from Real Madrid but he takes with him a lot of support and respect.  It's certainly going to be an occasion when he comes back to the Bernabeu, even in the colours of the opposition.

I began this article by saying how dignified Iker has been over this difficult time.  In truth, he's behaved with dignity throughout his whole career in Madrid but certainly never more so than in the last few months.  You can't help but respect him for what he's gone through, and acknowledge the fact that he's turned out with his head held high in every game he's played for the club.  He's certainly leaving with his head held high; I just wish that the circumstances had been a lot different.

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