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Casillas’ fall from grace

17 September 2014, 13:10

MADRID - When Iker Casillas triumphantly hoisted the Henri Delaunay Cup aloft in Kiev after Spain claimed a second consecutive European crown in 2012, he could scarcely have believed that within two years he would be roundly whistled by fans at Real Madrid's Bernabeu stadium.

Born and bred in the Spanish capital and a product of the club's academy, goalkeeper and captain Casillas has been singled out by some supporters following a stuttering start to La Liga.

They first vented their anger during Saturday's 2-1 home defeat to city rivals Atletico Madrid after Casillas was beaten at a corner by a Tiago header and the whistling continued during Real's thumping 5-1 victory over FC Basel in Tuesday's Champions League Group B opener.

To be sure, there were plenty of fans in the giant arena who clearly still worship "Saint Iker" and immediately the whistles rang out they were generally drowned out with warm applause.

Casillas was also given an ovation when he produced one of the miraculous saves that earned him his moniker and in recent years underpinned Spain's glorious six-year run at the top of the world game.

Nonetheless, he remains under a cloud and under pressure from Real's new keeper Keylor Navas, who starred for Costa Rica at the World Cup finals in Brazil while Casillas had a torrid time as holders Spain failed to make it past the group stage.

Also read: Casillas 'deserves respect'

Exactly why some Real fans have lost faith in Casillas - local media has been full of conspiracy theories - is difficult to fathom and piling blame on the keeper for the club's poor start in La Liga is manifestly unfair.

But as well as the division among the supporters, there has been a steady stream of reports of dressing room splits and Casillas's team mates and coach Carlo Ancelotti were less than proactive in coming to their captain's defence.

It is hard not to conclude that all is not well behind the scenes at the world's richest club by income and that the iron control president Florentino Perez exerts over decision-making may be counterproductive.

"I am not going to enter into debates, it would be stupid," Real's Spain centre back Sergio Ramos told reporters when quizzed about the whistling after the Basel game.

"The institution comes before all else and we have to focus on our own work," he added.

"Iker lives with it. He knows that he can't please everyone. He is not a robot and it's normal that he is affected."

Perez has not made any public comment on the situation and it has long been reported that his relationship with Casillas is uneasy at best.

The construction magnate did visit the dressing room after the Basel game to present Casillas with a replica of the fountain in central Madrid where fans celebrate the club's titles to mark his decade and a half in the first team.

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- Reuters


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