MADRID (AP) — Real Madrid gave Iker Casillas a belated official send-off at the Santiago Bernabeu on Monday a day after the former captain and goalkeeper broke down in tears in a solitary farewell before the press.
The club and its president Florentino Perez came under criticism for what many saw as a heartless way to brush aside a player who had spent 25 years at Madrid and helped it win three Champions League titles and five Spanish leagues.
Perez acknowledged “maybe we did things badly” and there had been confusion, but insisted it had been Casillas who had chosen to leave Madrid for FC Porto and had wanted “an austere and simple” farewell.
Casillas said he was sorry “if there had been discrepancies” and that he left Madrid as “just another fan.”
Porto officially announced late Sunday that Casillas had signed a two year contract with an option to extend it for a further season.
Perez said drafting the contracts that enabled Casillas to leave Madrid and join the Portuguese club had been “regrettably protracted” and “things could have been done better.”
Around 500 fans had arrived at the Bernabeu for the hastily-convened ceremony that had been announced barely three hours before. Many shouted “Florentino resign” and cheered Casillas as he posed for photographs next to 19 trophies he helped the club win.
“I can barely believe the shabby way Casillas has been treated by the club’s directors,” said fan Sandra Asecio, 27, as she queued in 37 C (98.6 F) heat to enter the stadium to say her personal goodbye.
“I would have liked him to end his career here, but I respect his decision,” Perez said, adding that “no one leaves Madrid through the back door.”
Perez said that Madrid would negotiate with Porto to secure a date when Casillas could return to play a tribute game at the Bernabeu.
Constant speculation that Perez was interested in replacing Casillas with Manchester United’s David de Gea may have prompted the 34-year-old goalkeeper, who joined Madrid aged nine, to look for another club.
However, De Gea has been named in United’s squad for their tour of the United States and there is uncertainty regarding his future.
“We will have to see who comes to Madrid to replace Iker,” Perez said. Keylor Navas, who deputized for Casillas last season, is recovering from an Achilles heel injury that is likely to see him miss the first few matches when the league restarts in August.
Having spent most of last season on the bench while Casillas played, it is not clear whether Navas would want to remain as Madrid’s second-choice goalkeeper should Perez succeed in signing De Gea.
Another option open to Perez would be the return of former youth player Kiko Casilla, who was sold to Espanyol. However, Spanish media has reported that negotiations between Perez and Espanyol president Joan Collet have stalled.