Leaving Iker in the cold could backfire for Mourinho

Real Madrid President Florentino Perez's confounded expression on hearing that his team's veteran 'keeper Iker Casillas wasn't in the starting lineup 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 may have finally gone too far.

After Madrid slumped to a 3-2 loss,the question arises whether Perez has reached the limits of his support for the often successful, yet equally abrasive, Mourinho.

"This was him doubling down. It was an exhibition of power. It was him imposing his decision on a club legend,'' said former Madrid player and coach Jorge Valdano. Mourinho didn't announce his decision to drop Casillas, highly respected for a decade of quality service in Madrid's net, for Adan Garrido till 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." That argument was far from convincing.

Madrid defender Sergio Ramos said he was "surprised'' by the decision and former Madrid goalkeeper Cesar Sanchez, Casillas' old teammate said, "Iker doesn't need to be punished to play better.''

Casillas said on Sunday that Mourinho hadn't told him why he had been benched. "I'm not used to being a backup,'' he said. "But the team is above any player. I have to keep training and win back my place in the starting lineup.''

Casillas, the captain of Madrid and Spain's world and two-time European championship team, was always seen as untouchable. The 31-year-old is the most revered member of Madrid's current squad. Many see him as the last link to the winning days of the "Galaticos'' of David Beckham, Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane.

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