[dropcap]N[/dropcap]ext season will see a number of major personnel changes that will take some time to get used to.
No longer will the Kop have the pleasure of lauding Steven Gerrard, while Xavi and Bastian Schweinsteiger are no longer one-club men after leaving Barcelona and Bayern Munich respectively.
The fact that one-club men are becoming more of a rarity was again confirmed as Iker Casillas has said his goodbyes, twice, to Real Madrid and its fans – with a move to Porto imminent.
Like the other afore-mentioned departing heroes, the Spanish goalkeeper thanked the fans of the team he was leaving and received love in return. Unlike the others, Casillas’ send-off was not perceived as gracious or sizeable enough given his time and service at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu.
The World Cup-winning custodian has been on Madrid’s books since 1990, progressing through the youth ranks and reserve teams to fulfil a place in Los Blancos’ first team for 16 years.
The 34-year-old has won five La Liga titles, three Champions Leagues and countless individual accolades; he is a certified Real Madrid legend.
However, his emotional initial departure over the weekend did not befit that of a legend.
Casillas took to the stage by himself, with no words of praise or support from club president Florentino Pérez or representatives from Madrid.
The goalkeeper used the opportunity to thank his team-mates, coaches and the fans for their continued support – with it expected to be the final hurrah for the veteran after 25 years at the capital city club.
Pérez and Madrid were then criticised in the mass media for their perceived lack of support of Casillas, with the powers that be moving quickly to save face and prolonging the goalkeeper’s departure.
A second goodbye, this time on the Bernabéu pitch with Pérez in attendance on Monday, allowed the Madrid supremo to hail Casillas’ heroics and character but most have seen through the smokescreen and believe it to be the president’s effort to appease the fans.
The goalkeeper is a modest and seemingly withdrawn character by nature and was never going to kick up a fuss – but his parents have taken to the press to fight his corner and reveal some home truths about their son’s strained relationship with Pérez.
Casillas’ mother claimed that Madrid had refused other offers for the distinguished stopper to join more established clubs and that Pérez had ‘vilified’ the goalkeeper over their mutual time at the club.
She even went as far as to say that Casillas deserved a club like Barcelona, who were labelled as gentlemen in a stinging attack on Pérez and the capital city side.
Looking at it objectively, someone of the goalkeeper’s standing should probably have finished his career at the Bernabéu and been lauded as one of the Madrid club’s best ever.
However, it has not only been Pérez that has supposedly mistreated Casillas in recent times, with the longstanding custodian losing some of the affection from the fans last season.
It is clear that Casillas’ performances have not been as stellar in the last 12 months as the Bernabéu crowd have been accustomed to in the past, with a section turning on their homegrown hero and whistling him last season.
A new beginning in Portugal and a change of scenery could well be the breath of fresh air that Casillas needs to get him back to his best and potentially extend his record of silverware and success.
He will certainly go down in the Spanish outfit’s history books as a club hero and legend, but the nature of his farewell and the potential toxic undercurrents of his departure taint his legacy in Madrid to some degree.
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