¿Qué puede faltar para zanjar por fin el debate de la portería de la Roja?

Casillas y De Gea

La cuenta atrás para la Eurocopa de Francia ha comenzado. Quedan apenas 4 meses para que los grandes del continente se den cita en este torneo que todos quieren ganar. España defiende título tras pasearse en la final de 2012. No obstante, las cosas han cambiado mucho en la Selección desde aquella que culminó una época dorada con la Triple Corona.

El tema de la portería lleva dando mucho de que hablar en los últimos tiempos, y en Euro Fantasy League no hemos sido ajenos a la situación. Hay dos cancerberos que se disputan el puesto en la portería española: Iker Casillas y David de Gea. Ambos pasan por situaciones bien diferentes. Del Bosque nunca ha escondido su predilección por el primero, no obstante, de Gea debería tener su oportunidad por el bien de la Roja. ¿Qué más puede ser necesario para que conseguirlo?

No cabe duda de que Casillas es un gran portero que ha dado muchos éxitos a la Roja, sin embargo la edad empieza a hacer estragos y los fallos son cada vez más habituales. Los dos últimos años de Iker en el Madrid no fueron precisamente los mejores y muchos focos le señalan como el principal artífice del prematuro adiós en el último Mundial. Esta temporada, en Portugal le cuestionan como el responsable de la eliminación en Champions y por ir tercero con un liderato cada vez más alejado. La prensa incluso le dedicó una cruel portada llamándole «manos de mantequilla» y el último encuentro ligero marcó el camino a la derrota frente a un modesto en apenas unos segundos de partido. Un coladero de goles.

¿Debe haber relevo? Todo apunta a que sí. David de Gea está cuajando una temporada espectacular en el Manchester (otra más) y está salvando el pellejo de Van Gaal. Un portero joven, con grandes reflejos y con experiencia en dos grandes equipos. Old Trafford le adora y, en la última jornada de la Premier, el guardameta volvió a evitar la derrota de su equipo frente a un potente Chelsea. Un partido más en el que se coronó.

Entonces, ¿dónde está el problema? O mejor dicho: ¿por qué hay debate si la situación es tan clara? Vicente del Bosque puede tener la culpa por cabezonería  (y no es el único caso). Nadie cuestiona el potencial de Iker, pero no es el mismo que en 2008. No pasa por un bache, sino que la edad le pasa factura. El relevo debería de haber llegado hace ya tiempo y de Gea ser el titular indiscutible. ¿Entonces, Casillas? Por supuesto que debe ir a la Euro por su experiencia y veteranía, no obstante tendría que ser la alternativa desde el banquillo. Pero ahora hay que confiar en los guantes de David de Gea, el presente y futuro de la Roja.

De Gea ready to take Casillas’ crown

casillas

David De Gea said after his show-stealing performance in Spain’s Euro 2016 qualifying win over Ukraine that he wanted Vicente Del Bosque to have a difficult choice when deciding who would be La Roja’s goalkeeper in France next year. Captain Iker Casillas is the competition, the Manchester United custodian has at least succeeded in giving the Coach something to think about.

It’s not only De Gea’s astonishing display in Kiev that pushes him neck-and-neck with the incumbent, though, and Del Bosque was never going to make his decision based on one 90 minute outing, even if De Gea was credited with anything between six and 10 outstanding saves by the Spanish Press. De Gea has proven he can adapt, having left La Liga in 2011 for the Premier League, struggled at first and then become one of the finest goalkeepers in England, and he’s proven his character too. Rather than sulk at not getting his summer move to Real Madrid, De Gea has, after returning to Louis van Gaal’s team, been as impressive as ever.

He faces an uphill battle on the international scene, however, and not only because Casillas is his country’s most successful player – his claim to the gloves isn’t entirely based on past success. The veteran Casillas has looked the part since leaving Madrid for Porto – ironically because he was about to be replaced at Santiago Bernabeu by De Gea, or so the ultimately failed plan went – and Del Bosque tends to pick on form and reputation, but not in equal measure.

More than once a player’s stature has counted for more than their contribution, and Casillas’ time on the Madrid bench in 2013-14 is the clearest example. Del Bosque stood by Casillas then even as Diego Lopez took the gloves in La Liga, leaving Casillas to play in the Champions League and the Copa Del Rey. In Del Bosque’s defence, Casillas captained Madrid to success in both tournaments and set a record for minutes without conceding in the Champions League, so it’s not as if he was completely out of touch.

Casillas and 10 others is a formula Del Bosque has followed throughout his time in charge of the national team and it has been an immensely successful one. But it can’t go on forever, and Spain’s most recent tournament experience led to calls for changes. Experienced pair Xavi Hernandez and Xabi Alonso retired after the World Cup 2014 debacle, forcing Del Bosque into anointing successors. Casillas didn’t, so De Gea remains on the fringes – but for how long?

Can Casillas justify his Spain first-team spot?

Iker Casillas may have won almost every trophy there is to win in football but it’s becoming increasingly clear there’s one thing he should lose – his place as Spain’s first-choice goalkeeper. The Real Madrid captain had a poor World Cup and his international form was little better as La Roja were beaten by Slovakia in Euro 2016 qualifying.

Casillas made one stunning save with the game goalless and, minutes later, wasted it by failing to stop Juraj Kucka’s long-range free-kick. The Genoa midfielder struck the ball well and there was some movement through the air – but not enough to deceive Casillas to the extent it did. He dived past the ball, then threw a hand towards it, in vain, as the shot found the net and put Slovakia on the way to a famous win.

The 33-year-old wasn’t at fault for Miroslav Stoch’s winning goal, having no chance from a lightning break and perfect cross that the winger headed home. And the rest of his performance was decent enough – neither spectacularly bad nor spectacularly good. But this is a Spain team that has struggled for goals, with first Fernando Torres and now Diego Costa leading the line.

Torres was a shell of his former self, eroded perhaps by injuries, and finally put out to pasture after the World Cup. Costa’s Spain form, meanwhile, has been far short of his club form, although his display in Slovakia was probably his best for Spain. He didn’t score, though, and until the goals start to flow, each mistake by Casillas is one more Spain have to make back. A more reliable goalkeeper would help both ends of the pitch.

If Vicente Del Bosque was short on options in goal then his loyalty to Casillas would at least be understandable. But the squad to play Slovakia and Luxembourg – on Sunday – also contains David De Gea, Casillas’ new understudy after Victor Valdes’ injury. De Gea has become one of the Premier League’s best goalkeepers and, 10 years Casillas’ junior, could be Spain’s goalkeeper for a long time to come. His time should be now.

Real Madrid to add Navas to ‘keeper conundrum

Of the positions Real Madrid needed to strengthen this summer, you’d be hard-pressed to find many observers who ranked goalkeeper as one of them. In Iker Casillas and Diego Lopez, Carlo Ancelotti already had more quality custodians than he could use to the full extent. If reports from Spain are to be believed, he’s about to have another one in Keylor Navas.

The Levante stopper caught the eye representing Costa Rica at the World Cup, his performances in helping Los Ticos to the quarter-finals confirming what those who closely follow La Liga had already realised – Les Granotes have a fine player. A fee of €10m will convince Levante to part with Navas, the rumour mill claims, but surely the Madrid high command could find a cheaper way of giving Ancelotti another headache.

Last year the Italian used Lopez in the league and Casillas in the cups – the Copa del Rey and the Champions League. It hasn’t been lost on the Madrid-based press, who worship the ground upon which San Iker walks, that Madrid were victorious in the two competitions for which Casillas kept goal and were off the pace in third when Lopez took the gloves. It’s an unfairly basic assessment of the situation and doesn’t reflect the quality of Lopez, who rarely let Ancelotti down.

And now a third goalkeeper will come into the mix. Madrid tried to offload Lopez, it was claimed, offering him to Monaco as part of the James Rodriguez deal, and rumours of a move to Napoli have long lingered. There’s also talk that Casillas has an agreement with president Florentino Perez that he can leave at the end of his contract next summer. The situation may be resolved in 12 months but that’s a long time to leave one and possibly two top-notch goalkeepers on the sidelines.

Ancelotti said while on Madrid’s tour of the United States that he hasn’t decided who will be his starting ‘keeper. The Italian, keeping his cards close to his chest, is presumably stuck between the three, having to weigh the experience and importance of captain Casillas against the good service of Lopez and the potential long-term gains of trusting in the younger Navas.

Casillas, at 33, could have years left at the highest level, although he was at fault for Atletico Madrid’s goal in the Champions League final and made costly errors for Spain in the World Cup. Lopez, meanwhile, appears a safe pair of hands – reliable but not capable of seemingly-impossible saves – and Navas lacks experience of the game in the deep end bar his summer exertions. They each have their positives, but each have their negatives as well.

Like so many things, this is all Jose Mourinho’s fault. It was he who first dumped Casillas for Lopez, falling out with the Madrid icon. Ancelotti rewarded Lopez’s good form by keeping him in the league side and kept Casillas sweet too, a masterful show of man-management. But how he will contend now Navas is in the picture too – and the affect the balancing act has on the rest of the squad – will be an intriguing part of the coming season.