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Spain still dithering over Casillas and De Gea


A good goalkeeper gives the whole team security, and especially so if it's a national team. The memorable book ‘Fútbol: mitos, ritos y símbolos’ (Football, Myths, Rites and Symbols), by Vicente Verdú, likens the role of the goalkeeper to that of the mother within the family home. His virtues (not conceding goals) signifies a source of stability for the family. For that reason the worst thing that could happen to them is to concede a penalty, in which the keeper-mother is left defenceless in front of the enemy. A good goalkeeper, like a good mother, doesn't undertake their chores for recognition. Gaining top marks for saving a spot-kick also could mean that something has gone wrong before the ball reached his penalty area. But symbolically, he has saved the family.

That's why stability is required. All of the great sides usually feature long-lasting goalkeepers. And that applies for national teams too. Spain, who are fast approaching their centenary, have had very few enduring goalkeepers: Zamora, Eizaguirre, Ramallets, Iríbar, Arconada, Zubizarreta, Casillas... Between all of them there have been others who have come and gone - some noteworthy players it has to be said too but it was in those seven mainstays that the team deposited their faith for a decade or more. And there was a great debate when even of them were left out of the side or demoted. Apart from Zamora who was 36 when the Civil War broke out and too old to continue by the time it had ended.

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Now we are approaching the end of one such lengthy cycle. Casillas made his 166th senior against Romania, a figure which propels him far beyond any of his previous records. He can still save the team, but being 34 is not the same as being 26. Someone is close to taking the baton and that's De Gea. Del Bosque preferred the United keeper for the more glamourous game of the two friendlies Spain played during the international break, the Italy game. Let's hope it's a seamless transition, if such a thing is possible. Casillas played the second game against Romania. The doubt now is whether he should go to EURO 2016 as the team's second choice keeper, if that's the fair thing to do and if it's possible. I reckon Del Bosque is scratching his head over precisely that same dilemma.