"Every time I join up with the national team I do so as if it were my last," said Iker Casillas, who broke Spain's all-time appearance record by winning his 127th cap on Tuesday.
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Spain captain Iker Casillas made history during his side's 2-2 friendly draw against Costa Rica on Tuesday, his 127th cap eclipsing Andoni Zubizarreta's mark as his country's all-time leading appearance holder.
Both men – along with Xavi Hernández – were present at a special awards ceremony last Thursday in which they collected commemorative caps and medals from UEFA for having reached 100 caps for Spain. It was at that event in Madrid where Zubizarreta paid tribute to the new record holder.
"I see it as absolutely normal that Casillas moves ahead of me on the all-time list," said the former Athletic Club, FC Barcelona and Valencia CF goalkeeper. "Iker is a great keeper and one who has always been ahead of his time because when he started all those years ago he did things that we saw as normal but that, in reality, were not. He's a goalkeeper who has grown, matured and has known how to live through the bad times. I think that he has a point of maturity that when he is between the posts he looks unbeatable."
Xavi, whom Zubizarreta added would "more than likely" also overtake his appearance tally, also had words of praise for his international skipper. "Casillas is a friend of mine; we have a great friendship," said the FC Barcelona midfielder, who has himself been capped 107 times. "He is a fantastic person among the group and a great captain.
"He likes to talk to all of his team-mates – be they youngsters or veterans – before making a decision. He's a guy who unites the dressing room and who is always there to help you. He is also very funny and has been so all his life; he's never changed. He's a normal, simple person as are all of the players in the national team. The good vibes he brings are contagious."
Having participated in 92 wins, 22 draws and 13 defeats for Spain, Casillas said it was hard to believe he had moved ahead of the renowned figure of Zubizarreta. "When I started out playing as a kid I never thought I would reach such figures but now that I have I'm obviously very happy," said the 30-year-old Real Madrid CF captain.
Casillas – whose name is forever etched into Spain's football folklore after lifting the Henri Delaunay Cup in 2008 and the FIFA World Cup two years later – made his international bow against Sweden on 3 June 2000. He has featured in three World Cups, three UEFA European Championships and one FIFA Confederations Cup. "Every time I join up with the national team I do so as if it were my last," he added. "The only thing I have clear in my mind is that it has been a real pleasure to play for Spain for the past 11 years."