Friday, December 3

The new life without crazy Kiko Casilla | sports


Kiko Casilla, this season against Villarreal at La Cerámica.
Kiko Casilla, this season against Villarreal at La Cerámica.Getty Agency

The first thing he said Loco Bielsa to Kiko Casilla (Alcover, Tarragona; 35 years old) when he arrived at Leeds in January 2019, the goal was “crazy to accept the challenge”. A concession to humor with that self-absorbed teacher aspect that the Argentine coach uses. The goalkeeper came from Real Madrid, where he had already run out of place even on the bench, and signed for a historic player who was then in the English Second Division. Then he began a passage through the islands that was not going to be anything accessory in his career. Among other things, after three months he received an order from his coach to score a goal against Aston Villa – his team had scored with a rival on the ground – in one of the actions of fair play most powerful of recent times; and the following year he was sanctioned with eight games, 70,000 euros and an educational session for a racist insult to an opponent that was deciphered months later by lip readers despite the fact that the footballer always insisted on his innocence. That episode, coupled with the pandemic, left him five months without playing.

Agitation was not lacking in Elland Road, but the promotion to the Premier in 2020 made him lose the title and this summer he sought a new life as a loan at Elche, rival of Real Madrid (14.00, Movistar), his club also training at the beginning of the century. Its beginning in the capital of Bajo Vinalopó was not very promising. On the second day, a rude mistake of his meant the defeat (1-0) against Atlético: he cleared a ball into the air and Correa pushed into the net. And two weeks ago, his performance in the poor result in Vallecas (2-1) fueled the debate in the city about the owner of the goal, with Edgar Badía waiting. For now, Fran Escribá’s commitment to Catalan leaves no doubt. He has played every minute. The team does not have the most reliable defensive system either, because Casilla is the second goalkeeper who has received the most total shots (144, only behind Espanyolista Diego López with 160), but he still has the sixth best percentage of saves (73, 5%).

Against the whites he will get rid of the threat of Benzema (drop by rest), although in front he will have half eleven of old companions from his stage at the Bernabéu, from where he was fired in January 2019 with honors by a dressing room, led at that time by the foreman Ramos, who gave him a T-shirt with the slogan “Always one of us.” He had arrived in the summer of 2015 from Espanyol in exchange for six million as part of the entity’s plan to try to pacify the merengue goal after the tumultuous months that were lived in the last days of Iker Casillas.

His goodbye to Madrid

It should have been the substitute for David de Gea, but the fax episode prevented it and finally it was for Keylor Navas, in whose shadow he scored three Champions and played 43 games due to the injuries of the Tico and the rotations of the first Zidane. Until in 2018-19 he was caught in the middle of another crisis in the white goal, between Navas and Courtois, and the Catalan, relegated to third goalkeeper, chose to leave with Loco Bielsa. “In Madrid he already painted little. He lived very well, but you always want to play ”, he admitted later.

It was free and in Leeds it was put into orbit as soon as it landed under the peculiar mantle of the Argentine coach. “Sometimes you would kill him, but then you see how he prepares each game, and the player notices that,” Casilla commented recently. There he got tired of touching the ball with his feet to get the ball played, more even than any rival, when at Espanyol, when he reached the first team a decade ago, his teacher Thomas N’Kono had to correct the hit for the bad what was it. Now, in Elche, without as much poetry as in the north of England, it has become the fifth in the championship that has made the most long shots. If all goes well, he said when he arrived at the Elche team, he could stay beyond this season, but that will require many of his stops.

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