Not many players can boast about a more successful career spent at one club than Iker Casillas has had. Over the past 25 years, Casillas has quite simply become a Real Madrid legend so news of his pending departure to FC Porto will come as a shock to many. Once considered the best goalkeeper in the world, Casillas has been found guilty on several occasions over the past few years of making critical mistakes which in turn brought his position as Real’s undisputed number No.1 into question. Last season for example he lost his place to Diego Lopez early on only to win it back once again in the second half of the campaign after the fans protested. It’s a familiar story of late that surfaces with Casillas who has been saved from the chop a few times due to reputation alone, primarily due to all that he has done for club and country over the past two and a half decades. And to be fair, they have a point. Casillas has won it all over that time including five La Liga times, three Champions Leagues and ten other trophies with Real Madrid as well as helping Spain to lift two European Championship titles and the country’s first ever World Cup in 2010. But the time has come for the legendary keeper to depart with Real keen to sign up Manchester United and Spain stopper David De Gea as his direct replacement.
Over a 25 year career, Casillas has won it all including the World Cup with Spain
(Image from EFE/Javier Lizón)
Arguably Casillas departure strengthens the negotiation hand of Manchester United as they continue to hold out on letting David De Gea join Madrid. With Real now racing against the clock to secure a new goalkeeper, United will know that Madrid’s willingness to part with more cash to secure De Gea will now increase dramatically. Keeping De Gea would be the preferred option for manager Louis Van Gaal but that looks increasingly unlikely with the player making moves himself including putting his house up for sale to ensure the switch happens. With Victor Valdes at the club, United could afford to let him leave without really having to worry about who they could get to replace him. So it looks certain that De Gea will move on but when and for how much remain the key questions. United could also use Real’s desperation to leverage their move for Sergio Ramos with the defender keen on a switch to Old Trafford. However it’s believed that Real Madrid want to keep the two deals very much separate in an attempt to reach a more favourable financial conclusion for the Spanish side.
Madrid wants De Gea to replace Casillas
(Image from Getty)
Part of the reason for Casillas departure was in fact De Gea who insisted that he wouldn’t join Real Madrid unless Casillas left. It’s understandable that the young Spanish keeper would not want to go to a club that has a goalkeeping legend still in its ranks. Despite De Gea’s confidence in his abilities and his growing stature in Spain, he could ill afford to play second fiddle to Casillas at this important crossroads in his career. Madrid have tried in vain to convince him that he will be their undisputed number one but De Gea will know from watching other goalkeepers coming in to Real int he past that it has been hard to displace Casillas. Despite his mistakes that have on occasions cost Madrid dearly, the fans still love Casillas and expect him to play in front of all others. With Casillas gone, De Gea can own the No.1 jersey and focus his efforts on winning over the fans rather than fighting to hold on to the shirt with Casillas waiting in the wings.
At 34, Casillas still has a few good years left in him and can be a success in Portugal in a continuously improving Porto side. He may not be the tallest goalkeeper in the world but his athleticism and positioning more than makes up for it. A natural-born shot stopper and a leader at heart, Casillas will strengthen the Porto back line as they look to win back the Primeira Liga and challenge in the Champions League. Regardless of whether Casillas is a success or not during his stay in Portugal, his legendary status as one of the world best ever goalkeepers is secure. Italian goalkeeping great Gigi Buffon called him simply the best goalkeeper that had ever lived and its hard to argue with that. Like all great players, age has an effect on form and the decline that follows can be brutal on a players reputation but for Casillas it will take a lot more than just bad form to damage his legacy. A capacity crowd will give Casillas the send off from the Bernabeau that he deserves after a lifetime spent at the club, giving his all for the club that he loves and has loved him back.
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In the end the result matter little with Everton having already secured their passage into the knockout rounds after three wins and two draws. With the pressure removed, manager Roberto Martinez decided to rest some of his first team players in preparation for Monday’s clash with Queens Park Rangers. It also gave him the opportunity to give some of the clubs most promising youngster’s valuable playing time. Into the starting lineup came right back Tyias Browning, left back Luke Garbutt and striker Conor McAleny whilst Kieran Dowell, Gethin Jones and Chris Long all made appearances from the substitutes bench. It said a lot about Martinez approach that Long at 19 years old, was the oldest squad player on the Everton bench. And it almost paid off with his young team restricting their Russian opponents Krasnodar to only a handful of chances with only one trickling through under reserve goalkeeper Joel Robles to hand them the victory. The fans however did not leave Goodison disappointed as they were shown a glimpse into the clubs future with the unveiling of the latest youngsters from their youth system production line. They all gave a good account of themselves but one other youngster in particular stood out above all of them.
Ledson commanded the Everton midfield against Krasnodar
(Image from PA)
Defensive midfielder Ryan Ledson is seen by the club as one of the brightest prospects to have ever emerged at the club. He took up position at the heart of the midfield alongside seasoned veteran Gareth Barry and demonstrated exactly why the club rates him so highly. Ledson controlled the game with a maturity well beyond his 17 years and looked confident on the ball throughout. His passing both short and long was exceptional with 91% of the 56 passes he made hitting their mark whilst his superb positioning at all times help Everton to retain its shape especially when under pressure from the five man Krasnodar midfield. Having been at Everton since the age of five, Ledson is very much at home at the club and is pushing hard to get into the first team as a regular squad member. Progress has been quicker than expected with Everton keen to secure the player for the long run rather than lose him to potential suitors like Manchester City and Tottenham who have been rumoured to be interested. It would appear though that Ledson has no intentions of playing for anyone else by signing his first professional contract with Everton in August. This was swiftly followed by a first team bench appearance against Southampton, and although he didn’t make it on to the pitch it was a signal of intent by Martinez that he sees Ledson very much in his plans. England are also keen to ensure that Ledson is part of their long term plans having already watched him excel at Under 17 level. Ledson played a significant role as captain as he led the England Under 17 national team to European Championship success last season. Now very much part of Gareth Southgate’s Under 21 squad, it won’t be long until he follows in Ross Barkley’s footsteps into Roy Hodgson’s full team.
Ledson signed his first pro deal in August (Image from Getty)
Before that happens, Ledson knows that he must establish himself as a regular starter at Everton. His performance against Krasnodar will go a long way to helping this transition with Roberto Martinez praising the way that he played. This won’t be the last time that we see him pull the strings for Everton at the heart of their midfield.
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Polish goalkeeper Jerezy Dudek is remembered fondly on the red side of Liverpool. The goalie had 6 amazing years at the Anfield club, including some memorable nights such as Liverpool’s Champions League Final win over AC Milan when he watched his side come from 3 goals behind to win the game and the cup in a thrilling penalty shootout. His heroics that night, when he replicated the Bruce Grobbelaar “spaghetti legs” during the shoot out which helped him to save two vital penalties, puts him in the category of club legend. Two years later, he would earn a dream move to Real Madrid as reward for his achievements. Dudek was excited about his move and the opportunity to play in-goal for one of the biggest clubs in the world but his dream would be shattered by one man – Spanish and Real Madrid’s legendary Goalkeeper Iker Casillas. Over 4 years at the Bernabeau, Dudek made only two appearances, not due to injury but solely down to the consistant form of the ever-present Casillas.
Iker Casillas is a one club man having spent his entire career at Real Madrid, but what a career he has had. After joining the club’s youth team in 1990, he would develop over the next 7 years towards the full team, finally making his debut as a replacement for German goalie Bodo Illgner in a match in 1998. The next season, aged 17, he would replace the German legend as starting goalkeeper and never looked back. Now, 14 years and 485 appearance later, Casillas is firmly in the clubs history book as a living legend. He exploits have seen him win the Spanish league 5 times, the Spanish Supercup 4 times, the Champions League twice (first time as a 19-year-old) and the UEFA Super Cup once in a glittering career that has also seen him named as FIFA’s best goalkeeper 4 times and recognised by a large percentage of football fans as one of the greatest goalkeeper’s of all time. His consistant form and rock steady hands has also help Iker Casillas to hold onto the Spanish No.1 jersey as well, gaining a record 142 caps in a twelve-year period. During that time he has picked up two European Championships in a row ( 2008,2012) and one World Cup (as captain 2010) in a period of spanish domination of international football.
Jose Mourinho is looking long-term towards the future and has identified several potential options as a replacement for Casillas, for when he decides to hang up his gloves. Manchester United’s young Spanish goalkeeper, David De Gea and Leceister City’s Danish star, Kasper Schmeichel, son of the legendary goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel are potential options as are Spanish duo, Atletico Madrid’s Sergio Asenjo and Osasuna’s Andres Fernandez. All have demonstrated their talents between the sticks at their individual clubs but none come close to the stature and abilities that Casillas possesses.
Young pretenders – Schmeichel and De Gea
At 31, Iker could play for another 9 years if he keeps in condition and on form as other goalkeepers have shown over the years (his idol Andoni Zubizarreta played till he was 37 and only retired due to injury) so the search may be slightly premature. Nevertheless Mourinho wants to bring in someone who can provide competition to Casillas with a view to displacing him in the number 1 jersey. But as Dudek and others have found out, that’s not as easy as it sounds.