SPAIN

Casillas won’t retire from Spain duty or confront Del Bosque

Spain’s record cap holder, who hasn’t spoken with the national team’s coaching staff since before the opener against the Czech Republic, will wait for a call from Del Bosque’s replacement.

Del Bosque e Iker Casillas.
JUAN FLOR

The dust has begun to settle following Spain’s disappointing Euro 2016 campaign but Iker Casillas is still stunned by Vicente Del Bosque’s decision to drop him in favour of David De Gea. Spain’s most capped ever player doesn’t plan to confront the now former coach and has decided to leave his international future in the hands of the new man in charge. The factors behind his high-profile falling out with Del Bosque go back a long way.

1. Insinuations directed at Del Bosque and Fernando Hierro

When Del Bosque first took over as national team coach in 2008, Casillas would often half-jokingly accuse both him and Spanish Football Federation’s Sporting Director at the time, Fernando Hierro, of being responsible for dropping him to the substitute’s bench at Real Madrid in favour of César during the 2001-02 season. Del Bosque took it with a sense of humour, but found it hurtful.

2. The benching in Udine

Casillas began to suspect that he’d be a backup at Euro 2016 as early as March, in Udine, when David De Gea was given the nod to start in the final mid-season friendly before the tournament. Iker knows Del Bosque well – since he joined the Real Madrid set-up as a 9 year old – and is very familiar with how he works. Two days before the opener against the Czech Republic his suspicions were confirmed. After 167 caps, many of them as captain, he expected a personal explanation. But Del Bosque said nothing, announcing his decision in a regular team meeting. Casillas stopped speaking with the technical staff, but didn’t complain. Nor did he complain when he was overlooked for the third game against Croatia with qualification already in the bag, a game that Del Bosque has often used to give back-up goalkeepers such as Reina and Victor Valdes playing time.

3. Events on the Isle of Rhé

Casillas’ behaviour in public has been impeccable and his attitude on the substitute’s bench during games has been irreproachable. After the defeat to Croatia he embraced De Gea in the centre circle and even tried to encourage Gerard Piqué, who completely ignored him, to acknowledge and applaud the Spanish fans. But of what happened inside the team compound, off limits to the press, we only know what’s been leaked. Casillas had not spoken to Del Bosque, Assistant Toni Grande or Fitness Coach Javier Miñano for days and would only communicate with them through Goalkeeping Coach José Manuel Ochotorena.

Iker Casillas was forced to watch from the bench as Spain crashed out Euro 2016.

4. Del Bosque’s silence

Del Bosque believes that you don’t need to justify decisions to players, regardless of whether they start or whether they don’t. In his mind, a player will never understand the decision to drop them to the bench. He was the same, after being omitted by Kubala from the national team squad for the 1978 World Cup. What’s more, Del Bosque is by nature very inexpressive and sparing with words. He was no different with Casillas, except for a short conversation of less than a minute in which he tried to salvage a relationship that was already irrevocably damaged. Spain’s most successful ever captain feels he deserved more.

5. Iker’s relationship with María José Claramunt

Whenever the national team travels, Team Director Maria José Claramunt always sits together with Casillas in the second row of the plane behind Del Bosque and Grande. She has a strong relationship with a number of other players, including Sergio Ramos, something the coaching staff have always been uncomfortable with. “She speaks too much with the players,” said one coach to AS.

The tributes will have to wait

The Spanish Football Federation had planned to honour Del Bosque and Casillas; the coach to mark his retirement, Casillas for his 167 caps, a record not only in Spain but across Europe. But given the situation, with their relationship at an all-time low, the tributes will have to wait. Former King Juan Carlos was set to be invited to act as an intermediary between the two.