MADRID, July 13
Several hundred Real Madrid fans chanted for president Florentino Perez to resign at an official send-off for goalkeeper and captain Iker Casillas at the Bernabeu stadium on Monday.
Real held the presentation following criticism over the surreal nature of Casillas’s tearful news conference on Sunday, when he appeared to be alone in the stadium press room to read out a farewell statement. The 34-year-old, who is leaving his boyhood club after 16 seasons in the first team to join Porto, appeared on the VIP tribune on Monday with Perez and made a brief statement before going down to the pitch to greet supporters.
Fans in the sweltering streets outside had called for Perez to quit before they were let into the arena and they repeated the chants and gave Casillas a rousing ovation as he posed with the 19 trophies he won with Real, including three European Cups. Casillas spoke on Sunday after Spanish daily El Mundo published an interview with his parents, with whom he has a troubled, in which they said their son had been forced out of the club by Perez.
Perez said at the presentation he had invited Casillas, whom he said he had “always defended” and described as “irreplaceable”, because of “confused information that has been published that perhaps needs to be explained as it does not correspond with reality. “Iker is leaving us because that was his wish,” Perez said, adding that the club were looking to organise a farewell friendly match for him, possibly against Porto. “Nobody from Real Madrid asked him to leave the club. You have to look after your legends and Iker is one,” he added.
A smiling Casillas, who twice shook Perez’s hand, did not respond to his parents’ claims. Despite the anger of some fans, the situation is unlikely to have lasting repercussions for construction magnate Perez, who is in the second of two stints as president. However, the contrast between Casillas’s emotional appearance on Sunday and the send-off of his close friend and former Spain teammate Xavi Hernandez was given by Barcelona was telling and prompted criticism that Real had not treated their long-serving captain with sufficient respect.
Xavi, 35, joined Qatari side Al Sadd at the end of last season and fans, officials and teammates paid homage to the midfielder at the Nou Camp, where he was surrounded by family and friends and a glittering array of trophies.