Casillas: Real Madrid, Spain's prolific 'goal unscorer' retires

We already knew Iker Casillas wasn’t likely to play again, but the end of his career was officially confirmed yesterday, when he announced the beginning of a new chapter in his life. He’s no longer a footballer, having ceded that privilege via a communiqué that was a beautiful statement of love and gratitude. Casillas was an exceptional goalkeeper, but he is also a good man. When relations between his club and Barcelona became so strained as to be unbearable, he took it upon himself to seek out Xavi Hernández and, between them, they restored a measure of peace that was good for the country and, in particular, for the Spain national team. It was an act of conciliation that earned them a Prince of Asturias Award.

What a shot-stopper Casillas was...

Casillas was a keeper who rose to greatness despite the era he played in. In truth, he fell short in some of the things demanded of the modern custodian, particularly the ability to play out from the back with ball at feet. He wasn’t amazing at dealing with high balls, either. But there was no-one better when it came to one-on-ones and, above all, he had a singular capacity to pull off the seemingly impossible. His career confirms that the main thing a keeper must be able to do is stop shots; everything else comes as an extra. And boy did he stop shots. If the term ‘goal unscorer’ existed, and if a tally were kept over time of the amount of goals keepers ‘unscore’, he would certainly lead the all-time charts. He’d have stats like Pelé.

Casillas lifts the World Cup after Spain's 2010 triumph in South Africa.

A member of football's most exclusive club

A legendary performer for Real Madrid and Spain, Casillas was the standard bearer of La Roja’s finest ever generation and has the honour of belonging to the most exclusive club there is in football: captains who have lifted the World Cup. That photo of him holding the trophy aloft against a backdrop of jubilant team-mates in red, with the slash of white of Sepp Blatter’s scarf in front of him, is an iconic image that represents the Spanish game’s finest hour. There have been difficult times for Casillas too, of course, but they are in the past. José Mourinho himself paid tribute to him yesterday. Madrid were quick to hail the 39-year-old and have opened their doors to him. A happy ending to a happy story. He deserves the best, always.