Casillas leaves Real

MADRID, July 12

Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas left Real Madrid on Saturday after 16 seasons as an iconic figure at the Bernabeu to take on a new challenge at former European champions Porto.

Casillas, 34, became a hero for both Real and Spain during a glittering career, where he has won three Champions Leagues with Real and the World Cup and two European Championships with La Roja. But in recent years he lost some of the sheen that earned him the nickname “Saint Iker” and last term was regularly whistled by disgruntled fans at the Bernabeu as the world’s richest club ended the campaign without major silverware.

Real’s announcement of their captain’s departure, which ended days of frenzied speculation in the Spanish media, came exactly five years since the Spain captain triumphantly hoisted aloft the nation’s first WC in South Africa after a 1-0 victory over the Netherlands. The expected arrival at Real of Manchester United’s David De Gea, the 24-year-old man, is being groomed to take over as Spain keeper, will also have contributed to Casillas’s decision to move on.

Regular playing time in Portugal for Porto, coached by Julen Lopetegui, should allow him to extend his international career at least until next year’s European Championship in France. “Thank you Iker, for everything,” Real said on website. “Thank you for being a symbol of the best in our history. You are leaving but we will not forget that you belong in Real Madrid’s heart forever.”