A LOOK AT LA LIGA
The first time I cast eyes on Íker Casillas, he was sitting in the passenger's seat of his dad's car leaving the secret exit of the Bernabéu Stadium.
My TV crew and I were waiting to follow Steve McManaman back to his home as part of a 'day in the life' feature. Top-of-the-range vehicles from every leading manufacturer whizzed past us and then came an ordinary family estate.
Casillas senior was carefully chauffeuring his teenage son back home. He looked so out of place among the superstars of Real Madrid. He was the fresh-faced teenage goalkeeper who'd just broken into the most famous first team.
Twenty-one years later, he's announced the end of a career that reached unprecedented heights.
You are normally adorned with a sainthood in retrospect. For Íker Casillas, the canonisation came right in the middle of his glorious professional life. A Champions League winner at just 19, he won it twice more, claimed the La Liga title five times and excelled for his country.
'San Íker' got his gloves in the World Cup in 2010 and took home the European Champions trophy in 2008 and 2012. There's not enough space on this page to chronicle all of his incredible achievements.
He earned every single one of the medals with his outstanding ability, superhuman reflexes, presence, acrobatics and leadership.
Leadership wasn't merely walking up the steps to lift trophies. Just before Euro 2012, he led a Spain national team that was in danger of being divided into Real Madrid and Barcelona camps. Along with Carles Puyol and Xavi, he called a meeting to thrash out growing differences. The conclusion was the unification of a squad that went on to retain the title.
Back in Madrid, his diplomatic efforts weren't appreciated by his club coach; Jose Mourinho thrived on creating antagonism with his rivals and Casillas had undone his groundwork. This signalled the beginning of the end for the goalkeeper at the club he'd represented since the age of nine.
Mourinho always left a trail. It was a fall-out with a physio at Chelsea, clashes with Paul Pogba at Manchester United, a poke in the eye to a Barcelona assistant.
He dropped the goalkeeper and made the fall-out public. Things were never the same. Mourinho soon departed and, a couple of years later, Casillas moved onto Porto where he added to his collection of league and cup titles.
Sadly, he suffered a heart attack during training in May 2019 and his career was curtailed.
There was talk of him standing for the Presidency of the Spanish Football Federation and, at the age of 39, I'm sure he will adapt his experiences to excel somewhere very important in the footballing world.
He is one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time with a multitude of awards to mark his achievements.
He truly is 'San Íker'. who needed the patience of a saint to deal with the aftermath of a ruck with Jose Mourinho.