The greatness of “The Saint” Iker Casillas was something that was determined even before he had come into this world. His mother, Maria Carmen, whilst pregnant had consulted a fortune-teller who predicted that Iker would go on to become a great footballer and would be one of the bastions of the sport and a legend in between the sticks.
So it should come as no surprise that aged 9 he joined La Fabrica and within a few years was already one of the most talked-about players at the youth level in Spain. His first venture into club football came at the age of 16 when he was escorted out of school and within the next hour was on a plane to Norway to be the 2nd keeper in Real Madrid’s away fixture to Rosenborg in the Champions League.
In an interview in 2019, he was quoted saying, “I remember that moment very well. I was 16 years old. I left school, went home, changed my clothes, got in a taxi to Barajas [airport], and I met all the stars – everything you thought impossible when you were a kid.”
Over the next few years, the teenage Iker would encounter many such occasions but the defining moment came on the 15th September 1999 when he made his Champions League debut against Olympiakos in Greece, in a season where Real would go on to win the Champions League to add to his already defining season.
In 2002, Iker Casillas found himself subbed on in the Final of the Champions League after starting keeper Cesar Sanchez suffered an injury. Casillas showed he was mature beyond his years pulling off 2 really good saves to maintain Real Madrid’s 2-1 lead and guarantee La Novena.
The next few years saw him become Real Madrid’s first-choice shot-stopper and pick up a few La Liga trophies and medals. His performances convinced Luis Aragones to make him the new Spanish Captain, donning the responsibility from former Los Blancos icon Raul. The press was highly skeptical about this given that Barcelona’s Puyol was an already established captain and had lifted the UCL trophy in 2006. Aragones stuck to his decision and bore the fruit when Iker led the way to the Euro 2008, being really decisive in the Quarter-finals against Italy with 2 saves in the shootouts.
He went on to win the World Cup in 2010 with him pulling off a brilliant save off an Arjen Robben shot in extra time to give Spain a chance at the Jules Rimet Trophy. After winning the World Cup in South Africa, he went on to help Spain retain their Euro crown by decimating Italy 4-0 in the final.
However, after a centurion campaign in 2011/12, he fell out with Jose Mourinho, with the Portuguese even benching Iker, a move which earned him criticism not just from within the team but also from the likes of Xavi and Iniesta who didn’t wish to see their captain treated in that manner. Eventually, Jose was sacked and replaced by Ancelotti who made Casillas one of his closest aides and reinstated his position at the age of 33.
That season turned out to be historic as Real achieved La Decima with Iker lifting the trophy, putting almost 12 years of European pain behind him and making it his 3rd Champions League triumph.
A disappointing 2014/15 campaign saw him and Ancelotti in the firing line and the legendary Spaniard pulled the curtains down on 25 years of madridismo and departed for Porto.
He showed shades of his past in the first 2-3 years with Porto winning the league and cup competitions and being regulars in the knockouts of the Champions League.
A sudden heart attack in May 2019 brought a sudden end to his .playing career although he remained a part of the Porto coaching set-up, helping the youngsters and aiding the manager.
He went on to announce his retirement shortly after Porto’s Liga NOS and Taca de Portugal triumphs, bringing to an end one of football’s most glittering and trophy-laden careers.
He departed the game having won everything including the admiration and respect of even his most sworn rivals and as one of the sport’s greatest and nicest players.
San Iker shall always remain immortal!