While some might have seen Vincente del Bosque’s decision to drop Iker Casillas for David de Gea in Spain’s European Championship qualifier against Luxembourg was because of the Real Madrid keeper’s mistake against Slovakia, there is a strong argument to suggest this was an inevitable move.
While Casillas has endured a tough few years, de Gea has quietly established himself as one of European football’s most impressive young goalkeepers, and the time may have come where the young pretender finally claims his place on the throne.
On the back of a season in which Casillas only played twice in the league, not many could have argued if del Bosque had opted for Manchester United’s de Gea over the Real veteran in last summer’s World Cup. The Spain boss stayed loyal to his captain, however, and some still feel that decision played a key role in the 2010 champions failing so dismally to defend their crown in Brazil.
After re-establishing himself in the Real starting line-up this season, del Bosque was able to maintain faith with Casillas without too many critics. That all changed in the shock 2-1 defeat to Slovakia, however, and Casillas’ mistake for the first goal made it impossible for del Bosque to continue to overlook de Gea any longer. As has become the case in recent years, the World Cup winning captain went from hero to zero.
Minutes after making a sensational save, Casillas completely misjudged Juraj Kucka’s 30-yard free-kick as the hosts took the lead in the Euro 2016 Group C tie, possibly bringing a disappointing end to the 33-year old’s illustrious international career at the same time.
De Gea may have always been in line to start the game against Luxembourg but the sight of Casillas dropped to the bench has led some to believe the changing of the guard has now officially happened. Despite being just 23, de Gea has already racked up over 150 top flight appearances for Atletico Madrid and Manchester United. While there were aspects of the youngster’s game that he needed to work on after making the move to the Premier League, de Gea’s form this season has shown he has now fully adapted to life in English football.
It’s not like de Gea hasn’t been tested since making the move to England as a 19-year old. Playing behind a defence that has undergone some serious changes, de Gea has been one of the most consistent goalkeepers and a player who has improved game-after-game. United have really needed their keeper this season and de Gea hasn’t let them down. His performance against Everton could well be one of the best by a goalkeeper this season, producing an incredible last minute save almost had Premier League betting slips across the globe ripped up.
The end of the Spanish revolution has been an abrupt one. The team that dominated international football for much of the past decade were so successful partly because they had been playing together for so long. But time catches up with everyone, even the world’s greatest football team. So, while Casillas might be a massive part of Spain’s history, de Gea looks like he’s going to be a big part of its future. And that future needs to start now.