An emotional goodbye from Madrid icon after 25 years

SoccerBy Shuki Byrne
Ignominious: Iker Casillas during his emotional press conference at the weekend
Ignominious: Iker Casillas during his emotional press conference at the weekend

There was an outpouring of apathy at the departure of one of the world's best footballers and one-club servants of the past several decades.

On Saturday night, one of Spain's most decorated players left the Bernebeu through the back door after an ignominious deterioration in a 25-year relationship between player and club. 

He belongs to a now almost non-existent breed player, one who dedicates all to a single beloved club, but any dreams of playing his entire career in the same jersey withered over the previous two years. 

Iker Casillas said an emotional goodbye to Real Madrid as he prepared to move to Porto after 25 years at the club. 

The goalkeeper joined Real's youth academy in 1990 and has been with the club ever since, making 725 appearances and winning 17 major honours in that time.

He was the winner of three European Cups and five league titles, as well as two European Championships and the World Cup with Spain. 

The 34-year-old was a high-profile casualty of Jose Mourinho's reign at Real but returned to the side after the Portuguese left for Chelsea, winning the Champions League for a third time in 2014.

His time at the club has now come to an end, though, and, in a tearful press conference, he paid tribute to all those at the club who had helped him through the years.

"After 25 years of defending the crest of the world's greatest football team, a difficult day has arrived in my sporting career," he said after fighting back the tears and prompting a rapturous round of applause from the gathered media. "It is time to say goodbye to this institution which has given me everything.

"It seems like only yesterday when as a nine-year-old I put on the Real Madrid jersey for the first time and my dream came true.

"During all this time we have suffered, laughed, cried and celebrated together. I have always felt supported and very loved, during both the good times as well as during bad times.

"This club has not only taught me to be an athlete, but it has also shaped me as a person, it has helped me grow, instilling in me the values its crest represents: respect, camaraderie, commitment and, above all else, humility. I have always tried to take these values with me wherever I've travelled to represent Real Madrid."

He added: "There's a phrase I've often used in interviews and I'm going to use again: above being remembered for being a good or a bad goalkeeper, all I would like is for people to remember me as a good person.

"Thank you, thank you, thank you so much. I'll never be able to forget you and you can be sure that wherever I end up I'll continue to shout: Hala Madrid!"

Casillas also thanked the coaches, staff, players and fans that had been with him at Los Blancos but insisted he was excited by the new challenge presented to him after signing a two-year deal across the border.

"The decision to join Porto boils down to two important reasons: firstly, the excitement conveyed to me by the president, the director Antero (Henrique) and the manager Julen (Lopetegui), who I have known for some time and, above all else, by the whole team," he said.

"And secondly, for the affection shown to me since it more or less became known that Portugal was to be my destination. And in that respect, they have won me over and that makes me very happy."

A fanfare was organised for his departure on Friday night but it was cancelled after transfer negotiations seemed to stall. On Saturday, the stadium was empty and the icon entered and exited the press conference alone. 

However, he steered clear of any criticism aimed at the club and proceeded almost stoically, with dignity. 

He ended by thanking his new team for having faith enough to sign him. 

"I will do my all not to let them down and will fight as hard as I can to win as many titles as possible with my new team.

"For that, thank you Porto for the faith you have shown me."