At least he’s not crying. Here’s Iker Casillas in a Porto jersey, the latest entry in the trending genre of soccer players looking miserable at their new clubs.
There’s a glowering, brooding intensity about Casillas, a defensiveness to those crossed arms. You’re a goalkeeper, Iker. Surely you should have your hands out for this? Shouldn’t you be wearing gloves, holding a ball? You’re in front of a net, bro. No wonder El Real got rid of you if that’s how you protect the goal these days.
Speaking of the net – what the hell is behind it in that photo? Some sort of unfathomable dark gray void? Is it a literal representation of the 34-year-old’s state of mind?
Perhaps the look he was aiming for was “stern, masculine toughness.” Those handsome, regular features, that square jaw, that implicit promise that here is a man in peak condition who will work in a team to rescue people from desperate situations. It’s an image that recalls early Baywatch-era Hasselhoff.
But the back-story of Saint Iker’s painful exit from Real Madrid makes it hard to view the image in any other context than his trauma at leaving. As the aftershocks from his departure continue, even an ex-Barcelona icon is weighing in, Xavi telling La Vanguardia that his friend and former Spain teammate’s situation “leaves a bad taste …”
“In recent years I have seen that he is not enjoying himself like before. He even seems bitter and I think everyone in this country should think about this. It cannot be that maturing Spanish athletes are not shown sufficient respect, that people neglect to value everything they have done for their sport and instead focus on their defects, sometimes with malicious intent.“
Xavi went on to contract the continued Gianluigi Buffon love-in. In fairness, that’s because, unlike Casillas, Buffon is still playing somewhere near his prime and his team just reached the Champions League final. If, say, he’d conceded five goals to the Netherlands in a World Cup, pretty sure the headline-writers would be rolling out some “BUFFOON!” lines.
Still, it’s undeniable that Madrid’s send-off lacked the class of Xavi’s own departure earlier this summer. Maybe that had something to do with Xavi choosing to leave, rather than in essence being kicked out, making for a very different atmosphere.
So when analyzing how clubs should handle the exits of beloved and long-serving players, perhaps this isn’t so much a “Florentino Pérez’s Real Madrid bad, Barça classy” kind of deal, and more about how the individual reacts to the reality of his decline and the realization that while he’s a hero to the fans, he’s a disposable asset to the men in suits that pay his wages – that while the best players are assured a place in history, they’re not assured a place on the roster once they hit their mid-30s.
Take ex-Barcelona defender Eric Abidal, quoted in Marca on Monday, saying, “I left the club in tears because there were people there who did not keep their word.” It’s not the first time the former France defender has slammed Barcelona for how they handled things after he returned to health following a liver transplant.
Now Real is reportedly working on a tribute match against Porto in a month’s time. Hopefully Casillas will have remembered how to smile by then.