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August 5, 2020

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Spain legend Casillas calls time on career

Spain’s World Cup-winning goalkeeper Iker Casillas announced his retirement yesterday, after being sidelined for more than a year with a heart problem.

Casillas, 39, also won the European Championship twice with his country in a trophy-laden career which included more than 700 games for Real Madrid.

“What is important is the path you travel and the people who accompany you, not the destination to which it takes you,” Casillas said on Twitter. “With hard work, you will always arrive where you want. I can say, without a doubt, that it has been the path and the destination that I’ve always dreamed about.

“Today is both one of the most important and most difficult days of my sporting life, the time to say goodbye has arrived.”

Casillas joined Portuguese side Porto in 2015 after a tearful departure from Madrid, a move for which Real was heavily criticized and led to fans chanting for club president Florentino Perez to resign. He suffered a heart attack in May last year.

His contract with Porto ended after the team defeated Benfica last weekend to win the Portuguese Cup. He didn’t play but celebrated with his teammates and lifted the trophy.

With Porto, Casillas also won two Portuguese league titles and a Super Cup.

He played 167 times for Spain, winning the 2010 World Cup and the Euros in 2008 and 2012 in a golden age for Spanish football. He also won the Under-20 World Cup.

He lifted five La Liga titles and the UEFA Champions League on three occasions during his time at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Casillas holds the record for most appearances in the UCL, featuring 177 times — 150 of which came with Real — as well as the most clean sheets in the history of the competition (57).

“The best goalkeeper in the history of Real Madrid and Spanish football joined us at the age of 9. He was formed here and defended our shirt for 25 years, becoming one of our most emblematic captains of all time,” the club said in a statement.

“Today one of the most important footballers in our 118 years of history calls it a day as a professional player, a player we love and admire, a goalkeeper who has made the Real Madrid legacy bigger with his work and exemplary behavior both on and off the pitch,” it added.

Former club and country teammate Sergio Ramos was among many players to praise the veteran, nicknamed ‘The Saint,’ on social media.

“Football thanks you, man. Forever a legend @IkerCasillas,” Ramos tweeted.

Vicente del Bosque, who coached Casillas at Real and with Spain also hailed his efforts.

“Casillas has been a hero of the national team and Spanish football,” he said.

Former Italy captain Gianluigi Buffon, who played against Casillas on numerous occasions and is also seen as one of his country’s finest ever goalkeepers, echoed Ramos and Del Bosque’s praise.

“They say competition makes us better than others but not perfect faced with ourselves. Maybe this futile pursuit of perfection is what made us who we are. #Grac1as Iker, without you, everything would have been less meaningful,” Buffon tweeted.

In June, Casillas said he was ending his bid to run for the presidency of the Spanish football federation, because of the novel coronavirus pandemic.


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