SPAIN are living a dream wave of success and Iker Casillas is riding its crest.
For the Spanish captain, who made the No.1 shirt of Real Madrid and Spain national team his own while he was a teenager, football has always been the biggest passion.
And that is exactly what keeps him on the go, making him “younger at the end of every match.”
He has played alongside Real greats like Zinedine Zidane, Luis Figo, Fernando Hierro and the original Ronaldo in the past while the present side has stars such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka.
This season, especially the second half, was something he would want to forget soon, for a hand injury and then a fall-out with manager Jose Mourinho kept him out of Real team.
But Casillas has lost none of his passion and is eager to show the world that he has lost none of his reflexes either.
In an exclusive interview with Doha Stadium Plus, the ace goalkeeper speaks about his success, love for Real Madrid, the big ongoing rivalry with Barcelona and respect for coaches, including Mourinho.
You’re captaining Spain’s best generation, which has won back-to-back Euro titles and the World Cup. How do you feel?
I’m very, very happy. The current generation has helped Spain reach where it hasn’t reached before. It’s one obvious reason that makes me happy. The entire country can be proud of it. We’re in fine shape and if we can continue our work, then we’ve a very good chance of retaining the World Cup in Brazil.
What’s the secret behind Spain’s unparalleled success?
Our national team has a big group of exceptionally talented players to choose from. They’ve come thus far by winning many age-group tournaments. We’ve a winning mentality and we’ve the winning feeling. I’m optimistic we can continue like this for many more years.
Could you tell three important factors that make a great goalkeeper…
Positioning rightly inside the area is quite important. You need to highly concentrate during the entire 90 minutes, even when the ball is at the other goalmouth. You need to time your moves perfectly well. A goalkeeper has to be a leader as well, especially in organising the defence. With experience you can improve on these three aspects.
Who’s the best coach you’ve played under?
When I look back, I realise with happiness and gratitude that I could do a good job with all the coaches whom I had worked with at Real Madrid. (Jose) Mourinho has a lot of great qualities. It’s he who helped us compete with Barcelona at the highest level and defeat them. I should also remember the good work of (Fabio) Capello, (Vicente) del Bosque and (Bernd) Schuster.
What makes you stay with Real Madrid? Will you ever play for another team?
I always enjoyed my time at Real Madrid and I want to be known as a Real phenomenon, but you never know what future has in store. As a child, I always wanted to play for Real. The club was the right trampoline for me to make it to the national team and without Real, it wouldn’t have been possible.
What’s the most memorable moment of your life?
Winning the European Champions League title for the first time (in 2000) was the most memorable moment. The European triumphs in ’08 and ’12, World Cup in ’10 too bring back many good memories.
How’ll you describe Real Madrid’s rivalry with Barcelona?
Rivalries such as these exist in life as well. Real and Barcelona are two top teams in world football, and the matches between them are quite good for Spanish football.
Who’s the best striker you’ve played against?
I’ve played against several good forwards over the years. Lionel Messi is of course one among them, but I had high respect for Gabriel Batistuta among others.
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