problems & responses – part III
The problem/issue: recently, there has been a lot of criticism directed at Iker Casillas from the Spanish press, and some have even called it a campaign against Casillas. Yes, against the man who is a serious contender for the Ballon d’Or this year, and who has brought multiple Champions League and Liga titles to Real Madrid and captained Spain to an unprecedented Eurocopa-World Cup-Eurocopa triple title.
The remedy: nothing other than Iker Casillas himself, who has responded with such class. And the fact that we all know what has been said is more or less a bunch of mierda.
Hopefully Iker’s Instagram account will bring us as much joy as his Facebook!
I’ve followed Iker’s progression since he was 18, rode the metro to train, cried during every momentous occasion and had lots of fluffy hair. More than a decade later, one of the things that I like best about him is that he has more or less remained the same person. I am conscious that he can make a mistake once in a while, I don’t always agree with him and there are times when I wish he’d either speak up or be quiet, but there’s no one else I’d rather have in my net for Madrid and for Spain and captaining the teams than Iker. That’s why it’s hard to see all the criticism that has been directed at him, after all that he has done for both club and country.
To give you an idea of what type of criticism he’s had to face, here is what he posted on his Facebook on Oct. 14 (he even received criticism for the time that he made the posting, as it appeared to be in the early hours of the morning, and for using Facebook to get his message out): “in the last few months, I’ve inadvertently been linked to various issues… such as if I don’t celebrate goals, it’s because I’m sad (the people who know me know that if I allow a goal and I believe I could have done more, I get annoyed), the other day it was about me not supporting my teammate Cristiano (I can’t admire his game more), another about if I was the informer and I leak things (at this point in my sporting life, and after 13 years in the biggest club in the world, it’s out of place. I believe the sporting press knows me, but saying this… I think that’s opportunist). Then another issue: if Mou and I don’t get along (if there’s anyone I respect above all others, it’s my coach who has returned the team to success). What else? Oh yes! One that made me laugh: it was said that I have a Spanish flag hanging from my house (when it’s the house of my neighbor). I hope and desire that things will improve, I assure you all that it’s what I want the most!”
He also made things clear earlier during an interview with COPE (have a listen here) where he responded to questions about these very issues.
on Cristiano vs. Messi: I choose Cristiano, it’s clear, because he’s a player that is contributing a lot every season and because I spend 24 hours a day with him, well not 24 hours, but every day with him and therefore I know what he’s like, how he trains, what he wants and what he wants to achieve.
on whether there’s a campaign against him: this is the situation. When you’re at the top, people are always going to demand more from you. I don’t think there was much I could have done against Messi’s goal, but any opinion expressed with respect can be accepted, so there’s no problem.
on why he doesn’t celebrate goals: because there are days. It depends on the day. A lot was said about the celebration two weeks ago, where there was an image that even surprised me, because it’s curious and peculiar… I can assure you that when Cristiano scored the third goal against City, I was very happy and content, what happened was that it was all inside of me. If a camera had followed me during all 90 minutes of the game, you would have seen that my expression remained the same throughout and I didn’t express any joy.
on whether he was the informer who leaked the news about Sergio and the shirt: these are things that surprise you. Perhaps for the position that I have in this club and with the national team, where I’m the captain, I know that there are many times when you have to bite your tongue and know that there are certain issues where you’re going to be named. But I always do things with my ideas and with conviction. Some will like it and others won’t. I don’t have to think more about it.
on Falcao: I think he’s a great forward, but I assure you that both Pipa and Karim are great forwards as well, and we also have Morata who’s also going to be one for sure.
on Mourinho vs. Ramos: perhaps it’s our fault since the team and players are more tight-lipped compared to previous years, but everything is exaggerated, it’s passed on from one person to another and what emerges is not the truth. (Whose side are you on?) Whose side am I on? On Sergio’s because you want to support a teammate who’s having a bad time. On the míster’s side because he looks out for the team. It’s not an issue of choosing sides, but rather supporting everyone equally… I don’t think it [Sergio's absence against City] was a punishment, because if it were, as it has been said, he wouldn’t have played yesterday or the other day. It’s not an issue of punishment. It’s an issue about how today, there are many radio and television programs, newspapers, and they have to give an opinion on everything.
on Ballon d’Or voting: I don’t know if I can vote for myself, I know that I can vote for my own teammates on the national team. But if I vote for myself, everyone is going to know and I don’t want any more attention on me [days later, it was revealed that Iker would be voting for Sergio, Cristiano and Xavi, in that order, and of course, that was criticized as well].
[Side note: on the subject of Iker and Sergio, they're new neighbors in La Finca! As you know, Iker purchased a house in the community a while back, and he and Sara have slowly been moving there over the past few months. Sergio, meanwhile, recently put his house in La Moraleja up for sale, because he too has headed for La Finca, joining the likes of Mou, Kaká, Cristiano, Benzema, Di María, Coentrão, Callejón... I heard that a relative of Sergio's, fellow footballer José María Romero (his current team is Xerez) has a house there, and since he's not using it, being based in Andalucía and all, he rented it to Sergio, completing the shift of the area to live from La Moraleja to La Finca in recent years.]
I also love that Iker’s teammates and colleagues have spoken up to defend him. Raúl Albiol said “he’s the best in the world. We’re very well covered with him in Real Madrid and on the national team along with Pepe Reina and Víctor Valdés.” In an interview with EFE, he added “Iker has spent a lot of time showing he’s number one and he continues to be number one.” Karim Benzema said Iker “is one of the best in the world in his position, he’s one of the greats, I have nothing more to say.” Santi Cazorla’s take was “I think there’s no point in doubting these two players [David Villa is the other one] and there’s no reason to doubt them.” Jordi Codina, when asked about this campaign against Iker, responded, “you’re kidding me! Who wrote that? It’s very easy to write ‘Iker allowed two goals’ and leave the byline blank. It’s easy! That’s a lie. The image of him when you see him live is fantastic. The ball [Leo Messi's free kick] went in perfectly, Iker couldn’t do anything. I don’t think I could have stopped it either. I’ve seen all of Madrid’s games and I believe he’s done well. He can make some mistakes, like everyone. What happens is that we’re not used to it, because Iker usually is an 11 out of 10. When he’s playing at 9.5, everyone asks what’s going on. He’s also human and can make mistakes.”
Miguel Torres also called the criticism “unforgivable” and that “you have to respect a goalkeeper at his level and what he represents for el madridismo. This debate is not going to last much longer.” Xabi Alonso said some of the things that have been said about Iker are terrible, and that he sees Iker as he has always been, in that the criticism hasn’t affected him. Meanwhile, David de Gea called Iker “the best goalkeeper in the world” and added “doubting Iker is doubting all goalkeepers.” And Luis Aragonés was quite succinct: “the criticism is stupid. Casillas is a great person, a great captain and a great footballer. He doesn’t need to defend himself from the things that are being said, because they’re not true.”
The fans, meanwhile, have done their best to support Iker. At the Vicente Calderón last week, when Spain took on France, there were chants of support, and in the game against Celta at the Bernabéu, Iker’s saves elicited the singing of “¡Iiiikerrrr, Iiiikerrrr!” In an interview with Madrid’s web site, Iker admitted that this type of support embarrasses him because “I don’t like to be the center of attention, but I also understand that people want to show their support. It’s always nice to have fans show you this type of affection.”