The ex-Germany keeper admits he was surprised at Mourinho's decision but has backed the Spain star to come back stronger, and believes Real Madrid can win the Champions League
Jose Mourinho stole the pre-match headlines when he left out the iconic Blancos and Spain captain for the 3-2 defeat, and Illgner concedes he was as shocked as anyone by the coach's decision.
"I was very surprised when he didn’t start," he told Marca. "It marked the end of an era, because nobody, including myself, expected it after seeing him in goal for 10 years. It’s always tough for a keeper. Only one player can play between the sticks. That’s the worst thing about our position.
"Initially, it’s a very hard pill to swallow. I’m sure he found it hard, but I’m sure that as the days pass he’ll have taken some positives from it. If he tried to take something positive, he’ll come back stronger. Iker is experienced and is surely prepared for things like this.
"I’ve seen almost every Madrid game and I think that he’s played fine. He’s saved the team in some games, against Rayo, in the Champions League, games that were won thanks to his saves. I’ve seen no reason to bench him.
"I don’t think it was performance-related. It would seem there was some unknown little problem. If he’s lowered his guard a little - although I don’t know if he did – maybe it was just a warning, one which will make him stronger."
Real Madrid are desperate to lay hands on a record 10th Champions League title this season, and Illgner believes it will be difficult to discount los Blancos if they are able to rediscover their team spirit.
"I think that Madrid has to improve if the team wants to reach the Champions League final. Take it a game at a time, regain form … If that happens, you can’t rule them out," he said.
"There has been some attitude in recent games. It’s true that one of Mou’s secrets is team unity and they have to regain that unity. Some players also need to regain the form they showed last season."