Iker Casillas, more than most, has every reason to look forward to the end of the calendar year as we head into the final stretch of 2013.
Dumped by Jose Mourinho for the last match of 2012, when he returned to Real Madrid's starting lineup in the New Year, an injury sustained against Valencia forced him back out again.
By the time he recovered, Mourinho had already swooped to sign Diego Lopez from Sevilla.
With the Portuguese coach's exit in the summer, the arrival of Carlo Ancelotti was supposed to signal the restoration of Madrid's prodigal son as the man between the sticks.
That's not happened, though.
Ancelotti has restricted Casillas to Champions League appearances, also adding recently that he'll use the Spanish international in the Copa del Rey—what a treat.
Los Blancos can't risk losing him
Would Iker leave?
"If the situation doesn't change in three months and you ask me the same question perhaps I will answer that I am planning to leave," The Guardian reported him as saying in October.
Indeed, the potential departure of Casillas is a very real talking point.
It's a situation Real Madrid and Carlo Ancelotti can't afford to let happen.
As Casillas himself points out, he's been with the club since he was "a small boy" and is quite rightly adored by the fans.
If he's allowed to leave, it would raise more questions than answers.
Will Diego Lopez be able to maintain the same levels of performance without a challenge for the No. 1 shirt? What happens if (or when) Casillas returns to haunt Madrid in the Champions League?
Class is permanent
It's difficult to go a few weeks without playing and still enter the team at your very best.
"It is not easy to play games like this when there's so much time that you are not playing. You notice that you are lacking certain things when there are two weeks between matches."
Despite those comments, Casillas was able to demonstrate the fact that class is permanent against the Italian champions with a string of fine saves.
Not that it's a surprise.
We're talking about a 'keeper who has been named in UEFA's team of the year on six occasions and FIFA's on five.
He's better than Diego Lopez
It's not up for debate whether Diego Lopez is doing well while he warms the Madrid goal—he is.
What is up for debate is this: Has he actually become the better goalkeeper of the two all of a sudden?
Both goalkeepers are 32, and while Casillas has been collecting 150 international caps over the last decade, Lopez has failed to even gain recognition as a regular in the Spain squad.
He's featured as the third-choice stopper for Vicente del Bosque on several occasions, but has only appeared once for La Roja—for 30 minutes in a 2009 friendly against Macedonia.
Casillas has won La Liga titles, Champions Leagues, European Championships and a World Cup throughout a trophy-laden career.
Who would you rather have in goal for a do-or-die game tomorrow?
Of course, Lopez's participation in La Liga means he may not play in too many important one-off matches. However, when those matches come round, wouldn't it be better if Casillas had been able to keep himself in form?
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