Iker Casillas: “My Real Madrid exit? We all make mistakes”

27 Sep 2020

Iker Casillas enjoyed an illustrious, trophy-filled career both internationally and at club level.

Speaking at the TELMEX Telcel Foundation event in Mexico, Casillas spoke about his time in football including his Real Madrid exit and his relationship with Jose Mourinho.

You didn’t deserve to leave Real Madrid the way you did. Did you make a mistake?

We all made mistakes there, but we’ve learned from it. I don’t like to see those pictures and I don’t think it was good for anyone. I’m sure that someday we’ll make up for that slip-up and we’ll do good things to make people happy again.

What was the difference between being on the bench for Vicente del Bosque and for Jose Mourinho?

The two situations were different. One was justified in footballing terms and the other was something personal. We [Casillas and Del Bosque] got on well for a year and a half and the next year we had disagreements, but that was normal between the captain and the coach. It doesn’t mean that you’re more important than the coach, but you’re going to end up having issues because you have to speak to him practically every day and the relationship starts to break down.

Jose Mourinho thought that I wasn’t at the same level as my team-mate and, on top of that, our relationship wasn’t very good, so it was easier for him to choose between one or the other. There are a lot of things that people don’t see, but I have a good relationship with him. We’ve seen each other a few times since and we’ve had a nice chat. There are no hard feelings between us because both of us wanted the best for the team. I decided to not have much of a relationship with him because I didn’t like a lot of the things I was seeing and he chose to pick another ‘keeper.

This experience made me much more mature, at the age of 33. You try to not cause any more controversy than there already was at the club. I wouldn’t change anything, and I don’t think I made a mistake.

How was it when the Galacticos arrived at Real Madrid?

It felt like Real Madrid was the promised land for any player. Florentino [Perez]’s philosophy of being able to sign the best player at any time was a huge motivational boost for us. I have really good memories of that time and, although we didn’t manage to win any trophies in the Galacticos’ last year, we still won two European Cups, two leagues and a whole range of other trophies between 2000 and 2003. Florentino knew how to raise the club to the level it’s at now, as the most important team in history.

What’s the pressure like at Real Madrid?

When I was playing in the youth teams at Madrid, even if we won 8-2, the coach would ask me how I’d conceded two goals. That was already seen as a failure and you already had that pressure at a young age. Having that really prepared me for the pressure of being the first-team ‘keeper. I knew that every three days I had a responsibility. Of course, it’s not easy to maintain that level all the time, but I really liked having that responsibility.

Do you have any stories about your first Champions League trip with Real Madrid?

The weird thing about this is that I was in design class. I was talking to my classmates and we were talking about Real Madrid, because their form wasn’t great at that time. We were talking about the last match, and as football lovers, we were having a go at some of the players. Weirdly, just before break, the janitor told my teacher that I had to leave the class for a moment because they had to speak to me.

I didn’t think much of it at first, but after walking 15 or 20 metres down the hall I started to feel a bit nervous that I might be getting some bad news. I quickly calmed down, though, and they told me Real Madrid were calling me up to travel with them in the Champions League. I couldn’t believe it and didn’t really understand what they were telling me. I thought it was a joke. When I arrived at the head teacher’s office, I was told that they’d called because they were taking me to Norway.

I went from criticising the team to being part of the team on a European trip. I was eating at a table with Clarence Seedorf, Fernando Morientes, Raul Gonzalez, Davor Suker and Roberto Carlos. Being with the team who won the seventh European Cup was like going to Disneyland.

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