Mourinho comes up short with Casillas gamble


José Mourinho knew he was taking a gamble by dropping Iker Casillas for the game against Málaga on Saturday but he could not have expected it to backfire so spectacularly.

Casillas, the Spain number one who had not been left out of a Real Madrid team for an important fixture for 10 years, sat on the bench and watched as reserve goalkeeper Antonio Adán conceded three goals (two of them from the Manchester City reject Roque Santa Cruz) in Málaga’s 3-2 win.

Mourinho said the decision was “purely technical” and when asked whether he believed Adán was the better goalkeeper, replied: “In my opinion? Of course. The coach analyses the situation and analyses the players available, chooses the team to play. You can invent all the stories you like but it’s a purely technical decision and nothing more.”

Adán could do little to prevent Málaga’s first and third goals, but was perhaps guilty of leaving his near post exposed for their second, when a first-time shot from Santa Cruz squeezed past him.

But in a couple of weeks no one will remember how Adán played, only that Casillas was dropped and that Real lost. This could turn out to be Mourinhos Ruud Gullit moment?

In August 1999 the then Newcastle United boss dropped captain Alan Shearer for the derby against Sunderland. Newcastle lost 2-1. Gullit left the club three days later.

Casillas is also Real’s captain and defender Sergio Ramos was only one of several players who was surprised by the 31-year-olds omission. “Of course , he is usually the captain of this team and I think he will remain so as he is a great goalkeeper.”

‘Three rotten eggs’

The decision to drop one of the best goalkeepers in the world, although his form has been unusually uneven this season, is particularly intriguing as it comes only a week after Mourinho had a heated discussion with Marca journalist Antón Meana in which he referred to having “three rotten eggs” in the squad.

It was supposed to be a private conversation but one got the feeling Mourinho did not mind it reaching the public, which it did a day later when Marca published a full account of the confrontation during which the manager is alleged to have said to Meana: “In the footballing world, me and my people are at the top and in the world of journalism you are a piece of crap.”

Mourinho is becoming more and more erratic. There is almost a sense he does not care if Real fire him. A few weeks ago he offered fans the chance to vent any frustration with him by coming out at the Bernabéu 40 minutes before the derby against Atlético – a reaction to jeers during a Copa del Rey tie against lower league Alcoyano a few days earlier. Only 5,000 fans were there at the time so it was difficult to judge how the majority of Real fans were feeling but Mourinho was certainly not backing down from a confrontation.

Still, they qualified for the last 16 of the Champions League from a difficult group without too much trouble and if it is one thing Real crave this season, it is success in Europe.

Arsene Wenger

Also, it is difficult to see who would replace Mourinho if Real decide that enough is enough. Germany manager Joachim Löw said this week that he is not interested in taking over at the Bernabéu and Arsene Wenger, a long-term target, is unlikely to leave Arsenal. Rafael Benítez would not be available until the summer. So, just like last season when details of unrest between Mourinho and Casillas/Ramos appeared in the press, an uneasy truce is likely to be forthcoming.

In contrast no such strife exists in rival Barcelona’s camp. Lionel Messi closed off a record year with his 91st goal to score in the 3-1 win at Valladolid. Guardian Service

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