Casillas reveals Real anguish
Iker Casillas says he cried and found it hard to sleep at night when Jose Mourinho dropped him from the Real Madrid team.
Mourinho first left out Casillas last December in favour of previously little-known reserve Antonio Adan. He regained his place when Adan was subsequently sent-off in a La Liga game against Real Sociedad, only to soon break a bone in his hand in a Copa del Rey clash with Valencia and return to the sidelines.
By the time he had returned to fitness replacement Diego Lopez was first choice and Casillas spent the last two months of the season on the bench, with Mourinho's decision apparently strengthened by a chorus of criticism from the Madrid media who claimed his selections were personally motivated by a personality clash between the coach and club captain.
Casillas, 32, told FIFA's official website that he had suffered horribly during his time out of the team, while trying to accept that the team always came first.
"I cried, suffered, felt bad and had nights where I slept little, if at all," Casillas said. "I am a Madridista through and through, and before everyone else - coaches, presidents, directors of football, even myself - the club always comes first. A lot of people helped me deal with being injured, which was a situation I'd never experienced before. I always try to be respectful. When you're not playing, as was the case with me, you have to accept it, work hard, be patient and keep going. It's no big deal."
With Mourinho now gone to Chelsea, replacement Carlo Ancelotti is expected to return Casillas to the Madrid line-up. The Madrid-native said he felt the experience of the least six months had changed him as a person, and he was happier now.
"Yes, I really have got my happiness back," Casillas said. "It's always difficult when you find yourself in a situation you've never experienced before. It hasn't been easy, but now I've turned the corner, I'm a different Iker Casillas."
Spain boss Vicente del Bosque has also given him games with the national side, including the opening Confederations Cup game against Uruguay. Casillas said he appreciated the faith which had been shown in him by Del Bosque and his team-mates.
"When you've been out for five months, it takes a while to get everything straight in your head," he said. "Luckily my coach and team-mates have treated me extremely well, because that's important when you're finding your way back. For goalkeepers, confidence comes from games and minutes. So whenever someone gives you an opportunity or shows faith in you, it always gives you a boost."
Casillas is now tipped to start Thursday's semi-final against Italy, who Spain memorably defeated 4-0 in the Euro 2012 final. Losing to the Italians this time would make critics suggest La Roja were on the slide, Casillas claimed.
"It's extremely important [to win], because if Spain do not reach the final, the critics will say we're not the team we were before," he said. "If we win, it'll be business as usual. We've created this pressure for ourselves over the past few years, but we know we have to keep enjoying it. This team never gets tired of playing football, and always wants to win. I think we're the major power at the moment, but there may well come a time when it's difficult for us to keep repeating the success."
Winning the World Cup in 2010, not Euro 2008, had brought the biggest change in mentality inside the Spain team, Casillas said.
"This team is nothing like the one from four years ago," he said. "Yes, we had just won Euro , but our success had come as a surprise to many people. Back then I don't think even we understood the role we had played in it all. "Obviously, once you've won a World Cup, your mentality and responsibilities change. I'm not saying we now feel superior every time we play. But we do believe that, with our way of playing, we can achieve great things. We absolutely want to win it, as doing so would mean this generation has won every title possible."