It’s taken a while, but Iker Casillas is back to his best at Porto and, in reviewing his time at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, noted that he didn’t comment on the goings on inside the club during Jose Mourinho’s reign because he didn’t want to be part of the circus kept quiet for the good of the club.
Though his departure from Real Madrid left a sour taste, the goalkeeper who was with Los Blancos for a quarter of a century still considers himself a Madridista.
What does Real Madrid mean for Iker Casillas?
“It’s the club that I have to be forever grateful for. I was able to fulfil a dream, to play in the team of my life and I only have words of thanks. For all the coaches, all the people I met along the way … with respect for others, I will always consider it my home.”
What’s going on in your head when you hear Keylor Navas being whistled at the Bernabeu?
“Uff! What can I say? I don’t like it. I lived it and you have to have a lot of courage to forget about it. It is a demanding club and a few years ago there was a mini split, by circumstances we already saw and we had to live. The whistles have settled at the Bernabeu and it’s curious because, in Keylor Navas’ case, watching his performance last season, it seems incredible to me that he is not among the top two or three goalkeepers in the world.”
What is more important for a goalkeeper at Real: technical or mental strength?
“Mental strength is key because you are analysed for everything and you have to be strong.”
How do you explain that Real Madrid have only won one of the last eight leagues?
“Because there will be other teams that have done well, but it’s clearly not a good thing. This also happened before. Other teams won the Champions League, we did not win it and we were asked how it was not possible for Real Madrid to win the Champions League. Now that they’ve won it, it’s the other way round: how is it possible that the Real Madrid does not win the League … it is that difficult! Barcelona and Atletico have been very strong.”
What has given you more satisfaction, Real Madrid or Spain?
“Both equally, because of the circumstances of a particular moment. For example, the way we won the Champions League in Lisbon, imagine … We suffered but people remember it with much affection. That moment was spectacular. Then you have others like Euro 2008 and it is clear that the World Cup was very important. Or my first European Cup, the eighth – that was very special.”
Why is it that in Spain people support their clubs more than the national team even when we have been champions of the world and Europe?
“That is how it is now. I really like the colours of Spain and I feel Spanish, and of course I love Real Madrid, but we have got people to putting Spanish flags on their balconies, something that was impossible before.”
For that we had to win the World Cup …
“To win a World Cup makes people feel more patriotic and more Spanish. But it is also true that the rivalry in recent years between Real Madrid and Barcelona has been very big – 15 years ago the rivalry was not like this. In 2000, for example, we were fighting for LaLiga with Valencia, the following year with Depor …”
Do you mean that there was not so much rivalry or that it was healthier?
“Healthier…there were not so many social networks, and not everyone opined. Sports journalism has also changed a lot since then. There were more teams fighting for all of the trophies. Now, the fight for the last eight years has been Real-Barcelona, Real-Barcelona, Real-Barcelona.”
Xabi Alonso announced his retirement a few weeks ago, what do you think when he sees his generation’s colleagues saying goodbye little by little?
“Time passes and happens for everyone. That’s why you have to start thinking about the future.”
Would you like Real Madrid to organise an act of homage when you retire from football?
“When the time is right, why not? They will always be there. Today, it’s best to let time pass. This does not mean that I do not want a tribute because I will always be grateful to the public of the Bernabeu, who will have applauded me during much of my career in Real Madrid. Those who have always been there for me also have to be thanked. Now, with the veteran games that are played, I hope that in a few years they call me and I can play again at the Bernabeu.”