Ancelotti Backs Casillas


Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti gave captain Iker Casillas a vote of confidence on Friday as the decorated Spain goalkeeper celebrated 15 years since making his debut for the 10-times European champions.

Now 33, Casillas was a fixture for Real for well over a decade until he was dropped by Ancelotti's predecessor Jose Mourinho and has lost some of the aura that made him a hero to fans and earned him the nickname “Saint Iker”.

After captaining Spain to successive European titles in 2008 and 2012 with a debut global crown in between, Casillas endured a woeful 2014 World Cup title defence in Brazil after a shaky season with Real but appears to be Ancelotti's No 1 this term ahead of new signing Keylor Navas.

The Italian used an awkward rotation policy last term when Diego Lopez, who has left to join AC Milan, played in La Liga and Casillas in the Champions League.

The latter's error of judgment in the final against Atletico Madrid handed Real's city rivals a 1-0 lead before Sergio Ramos saved Casillas and the team with a last-gasp equaliser and Ancelotti's men went on to win 4-1.

“He (Casillas) has never lost our confidence,” Ancelotti told a news conference ahead of Saturday's La Liga match against Atletico.

“We congratulated him today for his anniversary with Real Madrid and we wish him the best for the future. We have the same confidence in him as always.”

Born in the gritty Madrid suburb of Mostoles, Casillas came through Real's youth academy and made his first-team debut under former coach John Toshack on September 12, 1999, a 2-2 draw at Athletic Bilbao.

He has won three Champions League crowns, five La Liga titles and two King's Cups and with 683 appearances is third on Real's all-time list behind Raul (741) and Manolo Sanchis (710).

Casillas has made a host of superb saves over the years but will probably best be remembered for the one he pulled off to deny Netherlands forward Arjen Robben in the 2010 World Cup final inJohannesburg.

Robben raced clear on goal and placed a low shot towards the corner but Casillas flung out a leg and diverted the ball narrowly wide before Spain went on to win 1-0 after extra time.