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Speaking to UEFA.com, Real Madrid CF and Spain No1 Iker Casillas explains why goalkeepers deserve more praise and why great rival Gianluigi Buffon remains an inspiration.
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As one of the top goalkeepers in world football since the turn of the century, Iker Casillas knows a thing or two about the art of keeping the ball out of the net. A multiple trophy winner with Real Madrid CF and Spain, the 33-year-old is a leading member of the goalkeeping union – and feels it is a position that deserves more respect.
There are few trophies Casillas has not lifted since becoming a Madrid regular in 1999/2000, with his roll call of achievements including a trio of UEFA Champions League titles, five Liga crowns and two Copa del Rey triumphs, not to mention victories with Spain at the 2008 and 2012 UEFA European Championships and the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The credit for those wins has tended to fall more on his outfield colleagues, even if the man wearing the gloves has been integral to each success.
"We aren't treated like outfield players," he told UEFA.com, having recently seen Germany's Manuel Neuer miss out on the FIFA Ballon d'Or award. "In order for a goalkeeper to be considered among the top three, four or five players in the world, he has to have had a sensational year and won numerous trophies, whereas for other players maybe that's not been the case. It would be good if goalkeepers always received credit for the job we perform on the pitch."
Not that Casillas's contributions have gone entirely unrecognised. Nicknamed 'San Iker' (Saint Iker) by Spain fans for his miraculous litany of saves, he has long been considered one of the greatest custodians of his generation, thanks to a style inspired by former Roja stalwart Luis Arconada.
"I have a fast style and my reflexes are quick," said the Comunidad de Madrid native. "I wasn't lucky enough to watch Arconada play every week, but I've seen videos of him. I think he stopped playing football when I was four or five, but my memories are from my parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents who really loved football. I can really identify with Arconada."
The young Casillas was also impressed by Peter Schmeichel, still his favourite keeper of all time, though it was Gianluigi Buffon who convinced him he could go on to have a brilliant career. For years the Juventus and Italy glovesman was rated as the Spaniard's main rival for the unofficial title of world's most gifted No1, but for Casillas he has always been so much more.
"The fact Gigi Buffon started his career so young helped me considerably," he explained. "If you see a young goalkeeper with his profile at Parma starting to play for Italy because the coaches have faith in him, it gives you belief that you can do the same. Our careers have been practically the same because I also started very young at 17 or 18, and both of us are still going. Whenever we get the chance, we have a nice chat. It's a friendship formed over many years."