Inglorious Exits

By: Alfonso Duro

Iker Casillas is no longer Real Madrid’s goalkeeper, and he will soon be wearing the colors of Portugal’s Porto.

With a succinct eight-minute speech given at the press room of the team’s stadium, the goalkeeper put an end to 25 years of loyal service to the Merengues. 

For 16 of those years, he led the first team from the goal line, giving the Madridistas 19 trophies and becoming the biggest legend to have grazed the Santiago Bernabéu pitch. (And in case you forgot, he also won the 2010 World Cup while being a Madrid player.) 

So who thought this was the proper way of saying thanks to him for all those glorious years?

It’s been only weeks since FC Barcelona went through a similar situation with Xavi Hernández, and the Catalans managed to make it a memorable occasion. So was Iker’s inglorious exit a consequence of his broken relationship with Florentino Pérez, or is there a deeper problem at Real Madrid, a club that has notoriously failed to give proper recognition to its most important players in the last 15 years?

Del Bosque: 35 Years Down the Drain Over a Tie-Knot

From the moment billionaire Florentino Pérez became the president of Real Madrid in 2000, it became clear business would trump any kind of feeling. He was ruthless in coming through with his promise of signing Luis Figo, but he was also cold and calculating a few weeks later, when he sold team star Fernando Redondo —a player who was still in his prime— to AC Milan.

The trophies the team won in the following years under Vicente Del Bosque’s guidance, and the constant flow of Galácticos to the team’s roster year after year, converted most fans in devotees of Pérez’s doctrine, even if the beloved coach would soon come into the President’s crosshairs.

In 2003, Del Bosque was replaced by Carlos Queiroz, a man who had never coached a European powerhouse but whom the club believed was “more modern and stylish” than good old Del Bosque. Yes: they liked the way he did his tie knot better than Del Bosque’s. It was as simple as that. The Portuguese coach would be sacked nine months later and Del Bosque would go on to lead the Spanish National Team to a World Cup and Euro victories. Not too shabby for a man who cannot make a proper tie knot.

Fernando Hierro: Dare Not Speak

Another glorious member of this infamous club is Fernando Hierro. Team captain for over a decade, and the embodiment of madridismo despite having arrived at the club as a 20-year old. He gave his all on the pitch (much like Sergio Ramos nowadays… can you see where that situation is headed?) and won three Champions Leagues and four Ligas, but was that enough?

Obviously it wasn’t when in 2002 he defended teammate Fernando Morientes, who was being pushed to accept a move to Monaco in order to make way for “O Fenomeno” (not CR7) Ronaldo’s signing. Under Florentino Pérez’s rule, a captain acting as such seems to be a terrible offense, even more so if it contradicts your supreme leader’s ideas. Hierro was let go of his contract a few days later and signed a deal with Bolton Wonderers in the Premier League. He never got an official send-off from the club.

Raúl González: Suddenly Not Good Enough

In the summer of 2010, after a year on the bench, Raúl González was not ready to put an end to his career, so he agreed to cut his contract short and signed for Schalke 04. Like Iker Casillas, Raúl was never belligerent with the club, and left in the classiest way possible, even if Real Madrid did not reciprocate.

He was given the chance to get on the pitch at Bernabéu one last time to wave goodbye to his fans, but the whole thing felt a bit awkward and not genuine. Raúl was not, according the club, able to compete with the likes of Benzema, Higuaín and Cristiano Ronaldo anymore, although he managed to become a legend at Schalke in just two seasons, winning two Cups and taking the humble Mining town team to a Champions League semifinals.

Real Madrid stuck Raúl in the club of the inglorious exits after more than 20 years wearing the White Jersey, but Schalke made up for that disappointment big time and sent him off to a golden retirement in Qatar (and now at the Cosmos). Which is what a legend deserves.

Alfonso Duro is a Spanish freelance writer. When he's not managing Google's agency in the United Arab Emirates (his current job), chances are he's watching and writing about soccer.