Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas has shown remarkable resilience to bounce back from a run of poor performances and doubts over his future at the club earlier this year.
The Real captain saved his second penalty in consecutive matches when he kept out a spot kick against Cruz Azul at the Club World Cup on Tuesday night to emphasise his return to form.
Casillas was whistled by his own supporters when Real lost the La Liga derby with Atletico Madrid in mid-September but he has since enjoyed a renaissance that has coincided with their Spanish record 21-match winning streak.
“I have always been the same but players clearly go through good and bad runs. In the end all you can do is keep your head up and keep going,” Casillas told reporters.
He parried a first half penalty in Real’s 4-0 win over Cruz Azul in the Club World Cup semi-final, having stopped a spot-kick in last Friday’s 4-1 victory at Almeria in La Liga.
“It is always good to have in mind what you have achieved although you can’t live off it. Making two penalty saves is a nice anecdote if and when things work out and we win the titles,” he added.
Casillas lost his first team place during Jose Mourinho’s tenure, which ended in 2013, and last term under Carlo Ancelotti he played second fiddle to Diego Lopez in La Liga matches.
Casillas was still first choice for Spain coach Vicente del Bosque at this year’s World Cup in Brazil but he clearly lacked match practice and was caught out on several occasions as the holders slumped out of the tournament in the group stage.
When Real signed Levante goalkeeper Keylor Navas, who was impressive for Costa Rica at the World Cup, Casillas seemed to be on borrowed time.
However, Ancelotti gave Casillas another chance to prove himself and after a stuttering start to the season the man known as ‘St Iker’ is again showing his old reflexes.
“I feel better now than I did 16 years ago. I have more desire,” said the keeper. “I’m not young but I have a different way of looking at training and being professional.
“It is positive to be like this when you are 33. On an individual note it has been a good year although there have been disappointments like the World Cup.”