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Spanish centurions honoured in Madrid

Andoni Zubizarreta, Iker Casillas and Xavi Hernández received their UEFA commemorative cap and medal at a ceremony at the Royal Spanish Football Federation headquarters.

Andoni Zubizarreta, Iker Casillas and Xavi Hernández (far right) with their UEFA caps
Andoni Zubizarreta, Iker Casillas and Xavi Hernández (far right) with their UEFA caps ©RFEF

Madrid's Ciudad de Fútbol is home to the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) and on Thursday the venue was the setting for yet another celebration in the country's footballing story.

Inside the Luis Aragonés hall – named after the coach who led the nation to glory at UEFA EURO 2008 – three of the four players who have made a century or more of appearances for Spain were recognised by UEFA for their achievement. Andoni Zubizarreta, Iker Casillas and Xavi Hernández were each awarded a commemorative cap and medal at the ceremony, which FC Schalke 04 forward Raúl González could not attend because of club commitments.

With priority given to the most-capped player, Zubizarreta, with 126 appearances, was first to pick up his special centurion's cap from former RFEF president José Luis Pérez-Paya. "The cap looks great," said the ex-Athletic Club, FC Barcelona and Valencia CF goalkeeper, now 50. "I would like to thank UEFA for this award – it's a real honour."

The holder of 125 caps, current No1 Casillas was next on the podium and it was another former RFEF president – José Luis Roca Millán – who presented the memento to the Spain and Real Madrid CF captain. "It's always great to receive an honour like this," the 30-year-old said. "It's at this moment that I remember all my team-mates and everyone who has helped me."

RFEF vice-president Juan Padrón handed Xavi his commemorative cap, with the 31-year-old Barcelona midfielder, who has represented Spain 105 times, saying: "This prize is a really nice acknowledgement and it fills you with pride. When you look back, the memories are fantastic."

Once the trio had collected their caps, RFEF president Ángel María Villar Llona, who is also third vice-president of UEFA and president of UEFA's Referees Committee, gave Zubizarreta, Casillas and Xavi their special medals.

"I would like to congratulate not only these three players but also Raúl, who sent his apologies for being unable to attend," Villar Llona said. "The idea behind these prizes came from the president of UEFA, Michel Platini. He is a football man and somebody who cares about looking after players."

The RFEF also used the occasion to unveil five paintings depicting the most important goals in the national team's history. The artist responsible, Andrés Sánchez, said: "The process of painting these moments was a very complicated one because we wanted them to be as realistic as possible."

The goals portrayed are those by Telmo Zarra at the 1950 FIFA World Cup; Marcelino's winner in the 1964 UEFA European Championship final; Kiko Narváez's strike that earned Spain gold at the 1992 Olympics; Fernando Torres's clincher in the UEFA EURO 2008 final; and Andrés Iniesta's extra-time effort that decided the 2010 World Cup final.