It only feels like yesterday when Iker Casillas replaced Cesar Sanchez in goal for Real Madrid in the final absorbing minutes of the 2002 Champions League final. Real were leading the game 2-1 against Germans Bayer Leverkusen but had a poor second half where Leverkusen created wave after waves of attacking football, the game seemed destined to end 2-2. But Casillas pulled off a string of fantastic saves and although he had made a cameo part in the final he emerged as a hero, saving the day for the club who went onto win their 9th European Cup.
From that day forward Casillas established himself as Real Madrid’s No.1. goalkeeper and would keep the job between the sticks for the next 13 years. In that time he won everything a player possibly could. As Madrid’s first choice he was also naturally Spain’s too, and was part of the most successful Spanish side in history.
Casillas has spent the last four seasons at Porto after his surprise move there took place in 2015, but it felt like the right time for him to be moving on. Recently though it came as shock news to learn that Casillas had suffered a heart attack, even if mild on the training pitch. It is not something which one fathoms about happening to a 37 year old elite athlete.
Casillas is fine, he is good and that is all that really matters at this stage. But he must be incredibly shaken up and also ask why this has happened to him? He has put on a brave face in front of the media but there is no doubt that tears have been shed and part of this isn’t because he has survived and is thankful. It is also a realisation that his football career is over. Of course nothing has been made official and if Casillas can continue all good to him. But he must be fearful in some respects and he must also have the ability to protect himself and his health. Yes his career is ending perhaps 3-4 years before he would have ideally liked, but at the same time doesn’t it make sense to hang up his boots?
What does Casillas have left to prove, he has literally won every trophy one could ask for. This includes 19 trophies for Real Madrid, 5 league titles and 2 Champions Leagues. He won the league in Portugal with Porto last season. There could yet be another title this season as Porto are just 2 points behind Benfica with 2 games left to play in what should be a thrilling end to the season.
And then there is the glory with Spain. Two European Championships and a World Cup, in an extraordinary four year period.
Perhaps Casillas needs to reflect on the utterly amazing career he has had, this dreadful attack did not happen when he was 27, but at 37, he has had a 95% career in football. Simply for his health and well being he should be dropping the football gloves for the microphone of punditry and saying goodbye to his playing days- remaining a legend in any football fans eyes.