Iker Casillas, one of Real Madrid's best goalkeepers of all time, was born exactly 39 years ago on this day. Needless to say, social media was abuzz with congratulatory messages from the football world, including a few warm wishes from some former Barcelona players.
It comes as no surprise that a number of Barcelona legends paid tribute to the Real Madrid behemoth on his special day. Iker Casillas always maintained an impeccable level of decorum off the pitch and remains on excellent terms with several Barcelona stars.
Barcelona stars Carles Puyol and Cesc Fabregas wish Real Madrid legend a happy birthday
The all-conquering Spanish team, at its peak from 2010 to 2012, was an amalgamation of the most illustrious players from both Real Madrid and Barcelona. In contrast to the fiery El Clasicos where tensions regularly exceeded the melting point, the two groups of players were surprisingly cordial with each other with the national team.
It is widely acknowledged that Real Madrid's influential captain and his Barcelona counterpart, Carles Puyol, were the catalysts of this harmony off the pitch.
In tribute to the memories they shared as both teammates and rivals, Puyol posted a heartwarming message to celebrate Real Madrid's finest goalkeeper.
"Congratulations friend. We have had great battles on the field in defense, defending the colors that we carry in our hearts. Nothing made me happier than beating you in those duels. We have had difficult moments with the national team but we have also touched glory defending the same shirt. But from all these years for me the most important thing is that we have built a friendship that goes beyond the playing field, you are a friend and a great guy. I wish you well, Iker. Enjoy your day."
Cesc Fabregas also praised the Real Madrid shot-stopper's humility and declared him the best goalkeeper Spain has ever produced.
"The best goalkeeper Spain has given and without a doubt one of the greatest in history. The one who made us believe that yes, you could win, a kid with a noble heart and tremendous humility. And most importantly, an amazing friend. Happy Birthday Iker Casillas!"
Casillas captained the former Arsenal midfielder with Spain and also saved many a shot from the Barcelona youth product's boot when they went up against each other in the El Clasico.
Before he became the Real Madrid captain, Casillas had already forged friendships with several youngsters from Barcelona's youth academy, most notably Xavi Hernandez.
Despite playing for clubs that will always be sworn rivals and working with highly competitive individuals, Iker Casillas and Barcelona's star midfielder Xavi maintained an endearing personal and professional relationship on and off the pitch.
At a time when Barcelona and Real Madrid were at each other's throats, the likes of Casillas, Xavi, and Puyol ensured that the two teams never forgot what it meant to wear their respective colors.
The former Real Madrid captain's impact on Barcelona players who were his arch-rivals on the pitch is evidence that to the great 'San Iker', being an excellent human being was just as important as being a good player.Published 20 May 2020, 16:59 IST