Tearful end to a legend

Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas is moved as he addresses a farewell press conference at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid yesterday. Casillas, who joined Real's youth academy in 1990 and played 725 games for the club, will join Portuguese
Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas is moved as he addresses a farewell press conference at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid yesterday. Casillas, who joined Real's youth academy in 1990 and played 725 games for the club, will join Portuguese side FC Porto on a two-year contract.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Casillas' mother claims Real goalkeeper was 'vilified' and 'forced out' by club president

MADRID • "C'est fini". With those few words in French, a tearful Iker Casillas brought to an end his farewell statement yesterday to the Real Madrid fans he has served as first-team goalkeeper and captain for 16 seasons.

Dressed in a dark blue shirt and sitting alone in front of the assembled media at the Bernabeu stadium press room, Casillas, who will join Portuguese side Porto, choked up several times as he thanked Real for "giving me everything".

"This club moulded me as a person and helped me to grow," said the 34-year-old, who joined the Real academy at the age of nine and debuted for the first team at 18.

Along with a World Cup and two European Championship winner's medals with Spain, he also clinched five Spanish Primera Liga titles, three Champions League trophies and two King's Cup crowns in 725 appearances at Real.

"Beyond remembering me as a good goalkeeper or a bad goalkeeper, I just hope that people remember me for being a good person," added Casillas.

PUSH FACTOR

Iker has suffered psychological pressure and they treated him differently to other players. It is Florentino who is pushing him out because he wanted to end his career at Real Madrid.

MARI CARMEN, mother of Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas

He was speaking after Spanish daily newspaper El Mundo published an interview with his parents yesterday, in which they said their son had been forced out by club president Florentino Perez.

Casillas had been the victim of an orchestrated campaign of "vilification" in recent years which eventually led him to quit, they added.

His mother Mari Carmen also noted: "It (Porto) is a third-tier team for someone of Iker's stature. A world champion can't end up at Porto. He could have gone wherever he wanted and I wouldn't have cared if it had been Barcelona because they are gentlemen."

Real did not respond to requests for a comment and Casillas did not take questions from the media after making his statement, in which he did not mention Perez by name.

The impression remains that the Spain captain is leaving under a cloud after he was whistled by some fans at the Bernabeu last season, when the club failed to win major silverware.

His decision to leave is widely believed to have been prompted by the expected arrival of Manchester United custodian David de Gea, 24, the former Atletico Madrid man who is also being groomed to replace Casillas as Spain's No. 1.

While Real published a glowing homage to Casillas on their website, calling him "the greatest goalkeeper in the history of the club and in the history of Spanish football", it was telling that no Real officials appeared with him yesterday, in huge contrast to his close friend and former Spain team-mate Xavi Hernandez at Barcelona.

Xavi, 35, left the Spanish champions for Qatari side Al Sadd at the end of last season and was given a series of rousing send-offs by fans, officials and team-mates.

Casillas said he is looking forward to his stint at Porto, who are coached by Spaniard Julen Lopetegui, and that he would strive to win trophies.

Porto will compete in next season's Champions League after finishing runners-up to Benfica last season. Lopetugui already has six Spaniards in his squad and both his assistant coaches are Spanish.

Regular playing time in Portugal should allow Casillas to extend his international career at least until next year's European Championship in France. REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 13, 2015, with the headline 'TEARFUL END TO A LEGEND'. Print Edition | Subscribe