Spain boss Vincent Del Bosque believes that Manchester United’s David de Gea is marginally a better goalkeeper than Iker Casillas but insisted that the decision to drop the latter was “painful”.
Casillas has enjoyed huge success with the Spanish national side, winning the World Cup in 2010, the Euros in 2008 and 2012 and earning 167 caps in total.
But De Gea’s excellent run of form for Man United in recent years has forced a rethink over who should be No.1 and the 25-year-old started in the 1-0 win over Czech Republic this week, Spain’s opening fixture of Euro 2016. Del Bosque admitted that he has given a lot of thought to the decision.
“That Iker doesn’t play is painful for me,” Del Bosque said.
“He is a player that we have to respect because he has been here for 14 years. I tried to approach things as normally as possible. I had a talk with him because I felt he deserved it. He has more than 160 caps . We always try to make the best choice and the difference [between them] is minimal.
“I liked how Iker acted on the bench. I saw he was very serene and relaxed. It’s good to see the substitutes living the game and feeling the success as if they were on the pitch. He can help us a lot.
“Even my children would ask me whether Iker or David would play, perhaps to boast that they knew, but I always told them that they had to wait and see. It’s my duty to be discreet until the last minute and I didn’t do it as a game.”
Casillas is rightly regarded as one of the most talented players of his generation but the changing of the guard had to come sooner or later and it would have been hard to ignore De Gea’s staggering performance levels for United.
The hope now is that De Gea can cement his No.1 spot for years to come, as it may improve United’s chances of keeping hold of him.
Spain face Turkey next, on Friday, before rounding off the group stage with a clash against Croatia.