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Iker Casillas retires: his Real Madrid memories

Goalkeeping great Iker Casillas has retired from football; he looked back on his career with UEFA.com.

Iker Casillas celebrates the third of his UEFA Champions League successes in 2014
Iker Casillas celebrates the third of his UEFA Champions League successes in 2014 Getty Images

A UEFA Champions League winner with Real Madrid in 2000, 2002 and 2014, Iker Casillas has confirmed his retirement from football at the age of 39.

Just 18 when he made his competition debut in 1999, Casillas went on to make a record 177 appearances in Europe's top club competition. Gianluigi Buffon said of him in 2012: "I don't have to use up many words to say how good he is; the results are there for all to see. He has won everything there is to win and has been on the same great level for so many years." Casillas talked over his fondest UEFA Champions League memories with UEFA.com in 2019.

Watch Casillas' best moments

On reaching 100 UEFA Champions League appearances ...

I never imagined I'd play 100 Champions League games. Looking back at it now, with this new perspective, I get a bit scared, because it means a lot of games, a lot of moments. It's a difficult record to reach but, above all, I feel extremely proud to have won [the competition] three times and managed to stay in the Champions League for so long.

On his first call-up to the Real Madrid senior squad ...

It's a good anecdote because it was back in 1997 and I was in design class. We were talking about Real Madrid, about how they were doing at the time. It was late November, I think, and Real Madrid were struggling in the league. I think they were third or fourth and getting bad results, but things were going fine in the Champions League. They had an important game against Rosenborg coming up in Norway.

At that point, the high-school principal came into the classroom. Everyone knew I played in Real Madrid's youth ranks. He used to talk to me about Real Madrid, just as I did with my friends. He said: "Iker, would you mind stepping outside for one second?"

My first Champions League memory: Iker Casillas

"Sure," I replied. When I came out, he told me: "You'd better get in a taxi now and hurry to Barajas [airport] because Real Madrid just phoned your mum and she has called us. You need to hurry up because you have to go to Norway."

[It felt] like winning the lottery. I remember that moment very well. I was 16 years old. I left school, went home, changed my clothes, got in a taxi to Barajas, and I met all the stars – everything you thought impossible when you were a kid.

I went from being in class with my mate Julio to sitting at the same table as Fernando Morientes, Clarence Seedorf, Fernando Sanz, Predrag Mijatović, Davor Šuker and Raúl González. It was something magical and I will always remember that.

The big prize: a fresh-faced Casillas (right) in 2002
The big prize: a fresh-faced Casillas (right) in 2002©Getty Images

On coming on as a substitute in the 2002 UEFA Champions League final ...

I wasn't prepared to come on. I had always played with short sleeves because I felt more comfortable and free,and I wasn't prepared. So the moment comes when I'm about to come on [for the injured César Sánchez]. I have to get off the bench, I don't have my short sleeves, I'm unsettled and nervous because I don't like to come on like that especially in a final and so I had to cut my sleeves. Javier Miñano, the strength and conditioning coach at Real Madrid, helped while Vicente Del Bosque was giving me some instructions on how to go about the match.

In the end we were lucky enough to win my second Champions League title – against a Bayer Leverkusen side that had improved. People say that Bayer Leverkusen doesn't seem like a great team but we're talking about a team with Michael Ballack and Yildiray Baştürk, very good players at that time. They had eliminated Manchester United, Juventus, etc. I look back on it with a lot of happiness, and I was only 20 at the time.

It all happened very quickly, but in the end it was all very strange. I think it was the first time a keeper had to be substituted in a Champions League final.

Casillas lifts the UEFA Champions League in 2014
Casillas lifts the UEFA Champions League in 2014©Getty Images

On the Real Madrid-Barcelona rivalry ...

You mature as a player with all the Clásicos there have been in Spain. It's the most intense rivalry on earth. Of course there are derbies the world over but everything about Madrid-Barça is at the highest possible level because in the last few years the best players in the world have been at those two clubs.

We haven't yet been able to see a Madrid-Barcelona Champions League final  I don't think we're ready for that yet. We've experienced something similar in other competitions such as the Copa Libertadores, but a Champions League final between Real Madrid and Barcelona could be very tough.

We've already seen Real Madrid v Atlético Madrid. I can imagine that [a Clásico as a] possible final, and it would be tough, but surely we'll see it one day.