Lionel Messi pays tribute to longtime Real Madrid rival Iker Casillas
Lionel Messi had nothing but good things to say about his longtime Real Madrid rival Iker Casillas, who retired on Tuesday after a 22-year career. The Barcelona icon praised Casillas, noting his place as a legend of the game was secured long before hanging up the gloves.
“Iker is retiring today, but his status as a legend of the game was secured long ago — not just because he was one of La Liga’s best players, but also because he won everything at international level,” Messi told AS following news of the 39-year-old goalkeeper’s retirement.
Casillas had yet to step foot between the goalposts since May 2019 when he dealt with a serious health scare. While he was back with his team, Porto, for the 2019-20 season, he did not appear at all.
Lionel Messi shared plenty of battles across the pitch from very different perspectives. Iker Casillas conceded 17 goals to Messi throughout their long rivalry, but the Barcelona star has plenty of respect for the Real Madrid giant:
“You’re a fantastic goalkeeper and were a really tough opponent, I have to say,” Messi told Casillas in a message upon his retirement. “Looking back, I think it was a really special rivalry that pushed us to reach new levels every time we came up against each other.”
Casillas left Real Madrid for Porto in 2015 after 15 years with Los Blancos. The Spanish goalie, who captured three Champions League titles, two Euro championships, and a World Cup title, acknowledged Messi is the best player he’s played against:
“The best forward I’ve ever played against? It’s Messi,” said Casillas after his 2015 departure from Real Madrid. “I’ve come up against him a number of times and there can be no doubt about it.”
Needless to say, these two have mutual respect for one another, one that is expected to carry on well after their playing days. Casillas is running for president of the Spanish Football Federation soon, so he will be still heavily involved in the sport even after hanging them up.