By Ben Hayward | Spanish Football Writer
Iker Casillas is set to stay at Real Madrid until at least the summer despite his nightmare year at the Spanish side, Goal can reveal.
The Spain skipper has barely featured for Madrid in 2013 and was hit with a fresh setback on Tuesday as he was forced off through injury after just 13 minutes of his first-team return at Galatasaray in the Champions League.
|CASILLAS CHAOS - A TIMELINE
|DROPPED BY MOURINHO
||The Real Madrid captain is left on the bench for the league game against Malaga as Adan starts|
|BACK IN AFTER ADAN'S RED CARD
|JAN 6th||Casillas comes on against Real Sociedad after Adan is sent off for bringing down Carlos Vela|
|SUFFERS HAND FRACTURE
||Sidelined with a bad injury after taking a kick to the hand from Alvaro Arbeloa at Valencia|
|MADRID SIGN DIEGO LOPEZ
||With Casillas sidelined, Mourinho brings in Diego Lopez from Sevilla on a long-term deal|
|MADE TO WAIT BY MOURINHO
|MAR 29th||Iker is ready to return, but his coach claims he is "not match fit" and he sits out once more|
|BACK ON THE BENCH
||Back in the Madrid squad but does not feature again in the first team for the rest of the season|
|MOURINHO: I PREFER DIEGO LOPEZ
||Mourinho once said Iker was the world's best but now claims he likes Diego Lopez better|
|LEFT OUT FOR MOU'S LAST GAME
||The Portuguese leaves the goalkeeper out of the squad for the game against Osasuna|
|BENCHED BY ANCELOTTI
||New coach, same conclusion: Casillas is left on the bench by Carlo Ancelotti for the league opener against Betis|
|INJURED IN REAL RETURN
||Iker is back in the Madrid line-up and starts well but injury curtails his return after just 13 minutes|
But there is more to it than that.
Casillas' partner, journalist Sara Carbonero, is 25 weeks pregnant and expecting a baby boy either late this year or in January 2014. Asked last week whether the baby would be born in Madrid, Carbonero gave an ambiguous reply:"I don't know if my son will be born in Madrid or not," she said. "But now is not the time to talk about that ..."
However, the pregnancy makes a move in January almost impossible: Carbonero will be unable to travel in December and will not want to uproot in the advanced stages of the antenatal procedure, while adapting to life in a new city without the support of friends or family is also far from ideal following the birth of a first child. With all of that in mind, Casillas has decided to remain in Spain until the summer at least.
At Madrid, however, there is concern that Casillas may seek a transfer next July. The 32-year-old is seen as an institution by the Santiago Bernabeu hierarchy, but Ancelotti's goalkeeping coach Villiam Vecchi backed Diego Lopez to start at the beginning of the campaign because of his extra sharpness in pre-season training. Iker, short of match fitness, was still playing catch-up; he still is.
"It [the injury] was bad luck," Ancelotti explained on Tuesday night. The Italian added: "[Iker] made a great save and showed he is in great form - he will play the next Champions League game."
It has since been confirmed that the goalkeeper will be out for only around five days with bruising to his ribs and he will therefore be back in the starting line-up for Madrid's next European fixture: at home to Danish side Copenhagen on October 2.
Although this is without question his most difficult year at the Santiago Bernabeu, Casillas has been out of the Madrid line-up before, having been benched by former Real coach Vicente del Bosque back in 2001-02. Even that had a happy ending as Iker made a heroic return in the Champions League final of that same season against Bayer Leverkusen, when he replaced the injured Cesar Sanchez and made a number of important saves as the Spanish side claimed the trophy for a ninth time.
Del Bosque (the first to drop Iker and now, ironically, the only one picking him) caused controversy recently by claiming the Spain shot-stopper has all but decided his future: "I asked Iker how he is; he told me he had got through some difficult moments, that he was more comfortable and more relaxed," the national coach explained earlier this month. "He told me he had half-resolved his future ..."
Spending most of his time on the bench right now and with fan criticism still ringing in his ears at every home game as he is accused of being a media 'mole' by sections of the Madrid support, Casillas will only consider staying at the club in the long term if he can regain his place in the side.
In the meantime, he has the support of his Madrid team-mates, including Diego Lopez. As Casillas left the pitch on Tuesday night, the two men embraced and the Galician later said: "It was a knock [that he received] and I could see that it was painful. We are all saddened by our team-mate's injury."
Ancelotti, meanwhile, has never previously rotated two goalkeepers in his 18-year coaching career, and the Italian tends to favour tall players between the sticks. "The best three goalkeepers I have coached are [Gianluigi] Buffon (at Juventus and Parma, 1.91m), Dida (Milan, 1.96m) and [Christian] Abbiati (Milan, 1.91m)," he has said.
Diego Lopez stands at 1.96m, towering over team-mate Iker (1.83m). So, while it is a big man who is keeping the Spain star out of the Madrid line-up at the moment (Lopez), it is a little guy (his soon-to-be-born son) who will ensure Casillas remains in the capital for the next few months, and, given his spectacular story of success with both Real and Spain, anything could happen by then.
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