Mourinho's genius slipping into madness?

Posted by Nicholas Rigg

Iker Casillas was dropped to the bench as Real Madrid lost to MalagaGettyImagesIker Casillas was dropped to the bench as Real Madrid lost to Malaga

"Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They're not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can't do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do." - Apple Inc.

- Video: Perez realises Casillas has been dropped
- Crisis grows for Real Madrid

It is not often I start these blogs with a quote from a technology giant, but it is a quote I remember well, and it is a quote that popped straight into my head even before kick-off at La Rosaleda on Saturday night. Iker Casillas - St. Iker, Patron Saint of Clean Sheets - dropped from Real Madrid's starting line-up in La Liga for the first time in a decade (for technical reasons, not fitness). Antonio Adan Garrido given the nod to start in goal by under-fire boss Jose Mourinho for Los Blancos' final match before the winter break at Malaga. There is a fine line between genius and madness and Mourinho usually treads the former, but was Saturday night's goalkeeping decision a sign he has stepped over to the side of the latter?

Whatever the result against Manuel Pellegrini's men - and Madrid lost, again, 3-2 - the dropping of Casillas was always going to get the headlines. "St. Iker", as he is affectionately known, is part of the furniture at the Bernabeu. Madrid's unquestioned No.1 for a decade. One of the best goalkeepers in the world. Madrid's captain and a World Cup and European Cup winner with Spain. A fans' favourite. As far as job security goes nobody, it seemed, could be more secure than Casillas.

He was, therefore, exactly the kind of player Mourinho needed to drop if the current power struggle theories at the Bernabeu are to be believed.

For the best part of a year reports have surfaced that the Portuguese does not see eye-to-eye with a section of his Madrid squad, namely the players that were there before Mourinho's arrival in the Spanish capital. Players such as Casillas, Sergio Ramos and Gonzalo Higuain. You can add Mesut Ozil to that list this season, too, with reports suggesting Mourinho was not impressed by the German's alleged late night partying. It all boils down to Mourinho's approach to the game both on and off the pitch, with ultra-defensive tactics (in matches against Barcelona) and a desire to have a go at officials and other professionals via the media not sitting well with the aforementioned Madrid stars. They do not think this approach is very 'Madrid-like' (although this could open a can of worms in itself).

Ramos has already been dropped, as has Ozil, but the clincher was the dropping of the seemingly undroppable Casillas. A real sign of intent by Mourinho with he, and Madrid in the middle of a crisis. "I'm still in charge here", was the aim with reports suggesting Mourinho is edging closer to the Bernabeu exit door with every poor result - Madrid are now 16 points behind Barcelona, unthinkable at the start of the season. The former Chelsea and Inter Milan boss had been sporting a tired and fed up figure in recent weeks - very unlike the Mourinho football fans know - so maybe it was one last, desperate throw of the dice to show he is still the man at the top, and that he is not going to end his time in the Spanish capital with senior players, and not him, seemingly calling the shots.

The decision could have also been down to Casillas being forced to deny reports that he was leaking information from the dressing room to the press in recent weeks. Mourinho had an infamous clash with a MARCA journalist last week over who was leaking the information, but Anton Meana refused to reveal his sources. Mourinho may have believed it was Casillas, but he was not dropped for any disciplinary reasons, with the Madrid boss claiming post-match that the decision to give Adan a game was because "at the moment...Adan is better than Iker." "You [the media] can invent what you want but it's purely a technical decision."

The last time Casillas was on the bench for a technical reason was at Deportivo in May 2002 and few, for technical reasons anyway, expected him to be dropped this season. The 31-year-old may not have produced vintage performances this season, and Madrid's defence has been poor, but his personal showings have been far from good reasons to drop him. It is not as if Adan has been error-free this season, either, with Madrid's back-up goalkeeper far from excelling in the matches he has played in the cup this season. Rather than a technical decision, the move stinks of a power struggle that is only going to end with one winner - and it is not going to be Mourinho.

During the match, it was hard to draw any kind of conclusion as to whether the decision was the right one. Adan could do little with Malaga's three goals, although if we are really nit-picking he could have been tighter to his near post for Roque Santa Cruz's second of the night. He did not make any breath-taking saves, either. But the dropping of Casillas does not just reflect the dropping of shot-stopping ability and the control of his area, it also represents the dropping of unrivalled experience in goal, leadership, and defensive organisation. Adan offered relatively little in those three areas, as the scoreline suggested.

On the touchline, Casillas was understandably taking up as much of the camera shots as Mourinho. He was slumped down on his seat for much of it, trying to hide his face under his coat. He genuinely looked down and was holding on to his gloves throughout, although he did show signs of excitement during Madrid attacks and signs of disappointment when the goals went in at the other end for the hosts. Not even having Ronaldo dropped to the bench would probably have got as much attention.

Rumours circulating during and after the match were that Mourinho is doing his best to get sacked - the money he would receive if he was sacked would far outweigh the money he would receive from a 'mutual agreement' of leaving the club come the end of the season, as has been reported in recent weeks. Could Perez sack Mourinho over the winter break instead of waiting until the end of the campaign? I do not believe that to be the case, but the decision to drop a Madrid player who already has legendary status must surely be one of the final nails in his coffin at the Bernabeu.

The drama almost makes us forget that Madrid lost, again, and trail Barcelona by 16 points at the halfway point. Unbelievable, really, given how dominant Los Blancos were last season. Mourinho once blasted Malaga boss Pellegrini for being "first loser" when he took Madrid to a second-place finish in the year before the Portuguese took over. Well Madrid are "second loser" right now, and could be just one more defeat from dropping down to fourth in the table with Malaga now just two points behind Madrid.

It was the worst possible end to what has been a 2012 of two halves for Los Blancos and Mourinho. Two weeks to think about a 16-point gap behind Barcelona. Two weeks to think about just how Perez and Mourinho are going to fix a Madrid that is seemingly in tatters - and still with the Champions League to play for. Two weeks to think about whether Mourinho will hand the no.1 jersey back to Casillas when La Liga resumes or stick to his guns and go with Adan. There may be no Spanish football action for a fortnight, but at least Mourinho has been kind enough to supply the press with plenty of ammunition for stories in the meantime.

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