Marcelo Bielsa has delivered his most passionate defence yet of goalkeeper Kiko Casilla following Sunday’s humiliating defeat at Crawley Town.
Leeds United’s back-up goalkeeper was given a rare run-out in West Sussex, but faced fierce criticism for his performance in a 3-0 defeat.
Casilla has only made three first-team appearances, one in a Championship dead rubber, since being banned for eight matches by The Football Association last February for racially abusing Jonathan Leko.
Although Casilla has always refuted the allegations, some corners of the United support have turned against the goalkeeper, especially after his less than convincing form in the matches leading up to his eventual ban in 2019/20.
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However, when asked by LeedsLive whether he still trusted the veteran after the latest match, Bielsa could not have been clearer in his support for the stopper.
“No, I fully trust in Kiko,” he said. “And I will do the utmost possible to help him. I think the treatment Kiko has suffered ignores the fact he is a player who played 40 games for Real Madrid.
“Apart from whether his performances were good or bad, we forget all the things he has done to get the team promoted.
“People also don’t consider how he’s being treated publicly given the situation he had to go through when he was suspended for eight games and what he went through.
“I believe in him, his team-mates believe in him and we are close to him because we value him as a person and as a footballer.
“We accept what people think of him in different parts of the media and the people, but we know his past and we know his conditions and we care about him a lot as a human being.”
Bielsa was later asked about celebrity Mark Wright and whether his late introduction by Crawley was the ultimate humiliation.
And yet, to further stress his frustration with the Casilla narrative, he found his way back onto the subject of the goalkeeper.
Kiko Casilla had a tough afternoon in Crawley
(Image: Mark Leech/Offside/Offside via Getty Images)
LeedsLive’s question had centred on his trust in Casilla compared with a growing interest in Elia Caprile’s development in first-team games.
“If someone says Caprile should be in goal ahead of Casilla they ignore Casilla’s whole career,” he said. “And everything Casilla has suffered since the eight-game ban until now.
“The same treatment that was given to Casilla is similar to the same treatment the questions that have implied meaning.
“A player that’s serious, that has trained, that is experienced like Casilla. A player like Casilla, who has had 40 games for Real Madrid, one of the biggest clubs in the world, and whether he can be replaced by someone who has never had one minute in the first team.
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“What this question is looking for is to merely humiliate Casilla, because it really has nothing to do with Caprile, but of course, this is part of football.
“One day, (Illan) Meslier, who is 20-years-old, gives a bad pass and it results in a goal and whether it was a good idea to replace this 20-year-old and put an experienced player in like Casilla, and in the next day the question is if a 19-year-old who hasn’t had any minutes is going to be in goal because I might have lost confidence in Casilla.”