Kiko Casilla close to Elche loan

Leeds keeper Kiko Casilla is set to join Elche on loan this summer as he seeks regular first-team football in the late stages of his career.

The 34-year-old joined the Elland Road side from Real Madrid January 2019 and was ever-present between the sticks for almost a year, before he was hit with an eight-game ban for racially abusing Charlton’s Jonathan Leko.

Marcelo Bielsa defended his then-number one, making him captain upon his return to the side and arguing that the highly critical media didn’t have ‘all the information’ that he and the players did about the incident.

But despite his public defence of the Spaniard, he has made just seven appearances for the club in the year since, with 21-year-old keeper Illan Meslier overtaking him as Leeds’ number one.

The Mirror are reporting that Casilla remains a popular figure in the Leeds dressing room despite the controversy earlier in his time at Elland Road. But it’s claimed that Casilla is not content to sit around and play second-fiddle and is close to agreeing a season-long loan move back to Spain, where he hopes to become Elche’s first-choice keeper.

Despite being found guilty of racism, Leeds and Bielsa in particular have firmly denied any guilt on Casilla’s part. Leeds released a statement at the time claiming the ruling had been made on ‘balance of probabilities’ rather than undeniable proof, while Bielsa has said multiple times that he still believes in the 34-year-old despite the incident.

Speaking after Casilla’s heavily-criticised performance against Crawley in last season’s FA Cup, Bielsa said: “People also don’t consider how he’s been treated publicly given the situation that he had to go through when he was suspended for eight games.

“I believe in him, his team-mates believe in him and we are close to him because we value him as a person and a footballer.

“We accept what people think of him in the media or people, but we know his past and we know his conditions and we care about him a lot as a human being.”