‘You’re a spectacular goalkeeper, it was really hard to have you as an opponent’
Barcelona icon Lionel Messi has paid a glowing tribute to Real Madrid and Spain legend Iker Casillas following his emotional retirement.
Casillas called time on his illustrious career at the age of 39 on Tuesday just 14 months on from suffering a heart attack during training with Porto.
While at Madrid, Casillas racked up an incredible five La Liga titles, three Champions Leagues while winning the 2010 World Cup and back-to-back European Championships with Spain in 2008 and 2012.
And following his decision to retire, Messi took time to acknowledge his former Madrid rival after some incredible battles over the years in El Clasico.
Writing a message in Spanish newspaper AS, Messi said: ‘Iker retires today, but he passed into the history of football a long time ago.
‘Not only because he was a benchmark in La Liga, but also because he managed to win everything internationally.
‘You are a spectacular goalkeeper and it was really hard to have you as an opponent.
‘But, looking back, I also think that it was a pretty nice rivalry that made us have to outdo ourselves every time we faced each other.’
On his Twitter account on Tuesday, Casillas - who played a sensational 725 times for Spanish giants Madrid before finishing his playing days with Porto - announced his retirement in a letter and penned an emotional message.
He wrote: ‘The important thing is the path you travel and the people who accompany you, not the destination to which it takes you.
‘Because that with work and effort, I think I can say, without hesitation, that is has been the path and the dream destination.’
Madrid then paid their own tribute to a player who featured for them over the course of 16 seasons between 1999 and 2015. He had been with their youth set-up since 1990.
They wrote: ‘Real Madrid CF wants to show its appreciation, admiration and love for one of the greatest legends of our club and world football.
‘The best goalkeeper in the history of Real Madrid and Spanish football came to our house when he was nine years old.
‘Here our shirt was formed and defended for 25 years, being forever one of our most iconic captains.
Iker Casillas has earned the love of Real Madrid and is a benchmark of the values that represent Real Madrid.
‘Today, one of the most important footballers in our 118-year history, a player whom we love and admire, a goalkeeper who has enlarged the legend of Real Madrid with his work and with exemplary behaviour both inside and outside, says goodbye as a professional player. -DAILYMAIL