Pitchside Europe

Analysis: Could Real Madrid icon Casillas really join Barcelona?

Pitchside Europe

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In all of Real Madrid’s long, glorious history, few players have attained the kind of iconic status enjoyed by Iker Casillas in the Spanish capital.

A Madridista since the age of nine years old, Casillas has made 654 appearances for the Spanish giants, winning five La Liga titles, two Champions Leagues and one Copa del Rey in a career that has seen him become a rare constant.

The era of Zidanes y Pavones has come and gone, Galacticos have been ushered in and out of the club’s Valdebebas training ground and too many presidents and coaches to count have fallen by the wayside since Casillas made his first-team debut in the 1999-2000 season.

However, a report in Catalan paper Sport claims this morning that the unthinkable could happen – Casillas could be a target for Madrid’s deadly rivals Barcelona.

Casillas’s future at Madrid first looked shaky last season when he fell out with Jose Mourinho and spent much of the season on the bench, with Diego Lopez taking his place in a move that was interpreted as a classic Mourinho power play.

Carlo Ancelotti’s appointment was expected to herald a return to first-team duties for adrid’s most senior player, yet at the weekend Casillas found himself on the bench once again for a 2-1 win over Real Betis at the Bernabeu.

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There are suggestions that Casillas was reluctant to take part in the pre-match warm-up having found himself benched once again and Spanish media are now speculating that Barca president Sandro Rosell has instigated meetings to explore whether to recruit Casillas to replace Victor Valdes, who leaves Camp Nou at the end of the season.

Spain’s most capped player of all time has always been a close friend to Xavi having come through the national team’s youth ranks together but a move from Spain’s capital to Catalunya’s heartland would surely be unthinkable, wouldn’t it?

We asked our Spanish office for their perspective on what would be one of the most explosive transfers of all time – even more unexpected than Luis Figo’s move the opposite way in 2000 when he joined Real Madrid for a world record fee of £37 million, and with an even greater sense of betrayal than when Spain midfielder Luis Enrique left Real for Barca in 1996.

Ignacio Ruiz, Eurosport Spain:

The city of Madrid and Real Madrid means everything to Casillas. If he ever leaves, then he would never go to Barca. Nobody thinks he will leave Real Madrid now because his partner Sara Carbonero is pregnant and the club is so special for him.

Ancelotti explained on Sunday that he had a talk with Iker to explain the decision he took and the coach also said the decision was taken only for the Betis game and that we will see for the rest of the season. But it was a surprise for everyone to see Lopez start – and this has started a big debate in Spain.

Casillas did travel to Ecuador to play for Spain and the trip was very tiring, so many coaches - not just Ancelotti - decided that players would remain on the bench. Andres Iniesta and Jordi Alba were rested by Barcelona, as was Juan Mata by Chelsea.

On Thursday there is a friendly game at the Bernabeu between Madrid and Raul’s Qatari side, so we will see what happens with Casillas then…

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