As Real Madrid, and indeed, the Spanish league in general, prepares for life without the legend that is Iker Casillas between the sticks at the Bernabeu, as he embarks on a new stage of his career with a move to FC Porto, we take a look at some of the greatest moments of arguably Spain’s greatest ever goalkeeper.
Winning the Champions League Aged 19
We’re all aware of the old adage that goalkeepers tend to blossom a little later in life than outfield players, with most getting their big breakthrough in their twenties.
Not so Casillas.
Having broken into the first team squad at just 16 and becoming first-team keeper by the age of 19, Casillas became the youngest goalie to ever take the field in a Champions League Final when he was Real’s Number One for the 2000 Final against fellow Spaniards Valencia. In a memorable night, Iker would star in his team’s emphatic 3-0 victory as Real were once again crowned Kings of Europe.
Return of the King – Champions League Final 2002
Having lost his place in the Real side to the more experienced Cesar Sanchez during the 2001-02 season Casillas began the 2002 Champions League Final warming the bench at Hampden Park, watching his team-mate Zinedine Zidane light up the Glasgow night with a stunning goal to give Real a 2-1 lead over Bayer Leverkusen of Germany. With little more than 20 minutes remaining, Sanchez picked up an injury and the young Casillas was called into action. Pulling off a string of stunning saves, Iker would once again prove his worth as his late-on heroics helped Real to another European crown.
The Great Saves V Sevilla
Like Banks save against Pele, Iker’s heroic effort against Sevilla in 2009 has gone down in Spanish league legend as one of the greatest saves of all time. Scrambling from one post to the other, Casillas somehow managed to sprawl out and push away a seemingly certain goal from point-blank range, a testament to the greatness of the man. And, in case anyone needed reminding, he did it again a couple of seasons later – against the same opposition.
But which one do you think was the best?
Captain Fantastic – Euro 2008
Spain’s long wait for honours finally came to an end with their famous 2008 win at the European Championships. And while the great skills of Torres, Villa, Iniesta et al made their own headlines, nobody contributed more than team captain and goalkeeper, Casillas. Conceding only 3 goals in the entire tournament (not including the penalty shoot-out) Iker was inspirational between the sticks, including a heroic performance in the penalty shoot-out victory over Italy the quarter finals. With their 1-0 final win over Germany Casillas would become the first goalie to captain a side to European glory.
On Top of the World – 2010
Not content with continental glory, Casillas would, two years later, lead his country to glory in the biggest competition of them all, the World Cup. Despite losing their first match of the tournament (against Switzerland) Spain would be crowned champions having conceded only 2 goals throughout the tournament, again in no small part to their goalkeeper, with Casillas making match-saving stops throughout the tournament and being voted best keeper in the entire competition.