Spain legend Iker Casillas brings down the curtains on his 25-year spell at Real Madrid after agreeing to sign for Portuguese side FC Porto on Saturday, according to a statement on the club website.
“Thank you Iker, for everything you have done. Thank you for being a symbol of the best in our history. You are going but we will never forget that you’ll always belong to the heart of Real Madrid.”
The 34-year old Casillas, club captain since 2010, had one year left on his contract, but has opted for a move to Portugal following weeks of media speculation in the wake of Real Madrid’s reported interest in Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea. Whether Casillas’ departure now means that deal will go through remains to be seen — both clubs are yet to reach an agreement — but the departure of the highly decorated keeper brings to an end one of football’s longest associations and leaves huge boots to be filled in Real Madrid’s goal.
Casillas, who joined Real Madrid as a nine-year-old back in 1990, leaves after making 725 appearances and winning an impressive 18 major honours, including three European Cups, one World Club Cup, two European Super Cups, five La Liga titles, two Spanish Cups, and four Spanish Super Cups. Casillas, one of the most decorated players in the game, also captained Spain to glory in the European Championship twice — in 2008 and 2012 — and the World Cup, in 2010. He also won a Fifa U-20 World Cup with Spain in 1999.
Casillas made his Real Madrid debut in 1999 and has been first choice for the better part of the last 16 years. But that status has been in question for the past three years.
First, he was relegated to the bench in the 2012/13 season, when then manager Jose Mourinho preferred Diego Lopez. Then, following Mourinho’s departure that summer, new boss Carlo Ancelotti only played him in Spanish Cup and Champions League games the following season, which culminated in the club’s 10th Champions League win. Ancelotti restored him to first choice in the 2014/15 season, but some high-profile mistakes — starting with his showing for Spain at the World Cup in Brazil, where the defending champions crashed out in the first round — drew the ire of the Madrid fans in his last season.
Matters came to a head when the demanding Real Madrid fans booed their captain during a 2-2 draw with Valencia in May, prompting the frustrated veteran to respond in expletive-laden language after the match.
Real Madrid’s widely reported interest in de Gea suggests that the club had decided that Casillas’ time is up, which could explain his decision to move on to Porto and, as the Telegraph reports, open the way for the arrival of de Gea.
At his best, Casillas was regarded one of the best goalkeepers in the world, winning the IFFHS World Best Goalkeeper award for a record five consecutive years — between 2008 and 2012 — and his numerous timely saves played a huge part in Real Madrid and Spain successes over the years.
Real Madrid are losing one of the true legends of world football.
[Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images]