BARCELONA, Spain — Real Madrid President Florentino Perez’s confounded expression upon hearing that veteran goalkeeper Iker Casillas had been dropped for Saturday’s game against Malaga showed just how far coach Jose Mourinho has gone in his quest to exert control over the club.
And it may be that Mourinho has finally gone too far.
After waves of criticism from fans and players alike as Madrid slumped to a 3-2 loss in the game, the question arises whether Perez has reached the limits of his support for the often successful, yet equally abrasive, Mourinho.
“Mourinho has his particular way of dealing with his squad,” said former Madrid player and coach Jorge Valdano. “But this was him doubling down. It was an exhibition of power. It was him imposing his decision on a club legend.”
Mourinho did not announce his decision to drop Casillas, highly respected both in Spain and abroad for his decade of quality service in Madrid’s net, for the little-used Adan Garrido until minutes before the game.
The move backfired in the second half when Malaga scored on the inexperienced Adan three times to deal Madrid another loss that left it flagging 16 points adrift of Spanish leader Barcelona and its league title defense hopes shattered.
Mourinho said that he had picked Adan because he was “in better form” than Casillas.
That argument was far from convincing to fans and players past and present.
A fan poll published on Monday by Spanish sports daily Marca indicates that most of Madrid’s fans want Mourinho out. Eighty-two percent of the almost 100,000 participants in the online poll voted yes to the question “Should Real Madrid fire Mourinho?”
“Iker doesn’t need to be punished to play better,” said former Madrid goalkeeper Cesar Sanchez, an old teammate of Casillas. “This only brings to a boil the atmosphere of conflict that Madrid already has.”