Widely considered to be one of the finest goalkeepers in world football, captaining Spain to victory at UEFA EURO 2008 was the culmination of a lifelong ambition for Iker Casillas: to win a major trophy with La Roja. Yet despite a medal collection that also includes four La Liga titles, two UEFA Champions League triumphs and an Intercontinental Cup conquest, the 26-year-old custodian is not finished yet, as he tells FIFA.com in an exclusive interview in which he answers users' questions.
Impact: You have won so much during the course of your career, but what would you say was your greatest conquest?
Iker Casillas: The European Championship in Austria [and Switzerland] because it was a really huge moment for Spanish football. Personally, it was a goal that I'd been pursuing for a very long time: to be able to win something for my country with La Roja. We finally did it.
SteveAnorizz: How do you explain Spain's victory at EURO 2008? Do you already have one foot at South Africa 2010?
I'd say that the victory was due to the squad we had who, as well as being quality players, were exceptional human beings. We were a united group and team-mates first and foremost. And that was reflected out on the pitch. Are we already in South Africa? I'd like to say yes but we've not sealed our place yet. That said, we're certainly on the right track.
Dmp3048: What went through your mind ahead of the penalty shootout against Italy at the EURO?
Well, lots of things. But it is true that I was feeling more confident than I normally would. I'm not sure why, perhaps because this time I felt that it was our turn to have luck on our side. It had always gone against us and I think that finally there had to come a time when Spain would win a knockout tie on penalties and particularly against Italy. I felt hugely positive, to be honest.
Fckrla7: How did it feel to raise the trophy aloft at the European Championship?
I cast my mind back to all those players who had played for the Spanish national team before us and who had fought to win a [major] title, a success that we ended up pulling off. Seeing I was the captain I was fortunate enough to lift the trophy and I let out that roar. That roar was the release of so much adrenaline, the release of all the disappointments we'd had in the past. That shout was one of relief, as if to say 'About time! Everything's ok now.'
Mohfadly: Do you think that Spain will be able to shoulder the favourites' tag at the next FIFA World Cup?
We always used to be included among the favourites before, so there's even more reason for that now [after EURO 2008]. But from my point of view that makes no difference.
Chachalaka: What is your next challenge? Iker, what are your ambitions?
To win the World Cup, of course. I'd always dreamed of achieving something with the national team before I retired. Now, after [winning] the European Championship, a World Cup is next on the list. But it's not something I'm obsessed with.
'AM': As far as keepers are concerned, which part of pre-match preparation is more important: the mental or physical side?
I think that the mental side is much more important than the physical. In this position (goalkeeper), mental preparation gives you much greater strength and consistency.
youssef: There was a period when you were criticised for a certain inconsistency, to the extent that you spent some time on the bench in the 2001/02 campaign. How did you manage to overcome those difficult times?
You have to learn from every difficult experience. Just like when you're little and you do an exam, and the teacher corrects you and that's how you see where you made mistakes. Well it's the same principle. That was eight years ago now and I was still a young lad, but it did me a lot of good because I really improved from that point on. I travelled to the 2002 World Cup and began playing more regularly again.
popho77: Which is the player who has had the biggest impact on you?
Zinedine Zidane, who is a very noble person off the pitch and was an exquisite player.
snedecor: What aspects of your game do you think you could or should improve?
All of them. I think that I've made a great deal of progress, but I still think I need to keep improving every aspect of my game.
Prabhatfc: Real Madrid were again knocked out in the last 16 of this season's Champions League. Why do you think this keeps happening to a team which plays so well in the league? Is it down to pressure or a lack of quality?
I think that we need to bring together players who can compete at European level, where every team have strengthened well and have big names. It's also true that we've come up against great teams and perhaps we couldn't do much more [than we did] but Real Madrid should not go five years without progressing beyond the first knockout round.
Madridiste: You were part of the Real Madrid youth system, like Guti, Raul, [Ruben] de la Red etc. Your patience and devotion to Madrid are really impressive. Do you think that the club should look to take advantage of the talent in its youth ranks instead of signing foreign players?
I think that Madrid do keep track of their youth system, but in an indirect way. There are players that come from Madrid's youth set-up at almost every club in the Spanish first division. It is true though that we've got just three such players in our first team. And yes, in the future I would like there to be more home-grown players brought through.
Zappear: Which was your best ever save?
They're all good, but I'd go for those two penalty stops against Italy at the EURO because of the significance they had.
Steve.com: When you concede a goal do you tell yourself 'What an idiot I am!' or 'What a great goalscorer that guy is!'?
I say to myself ‘I could have done a bit more'.
Evannnn: Who do you think is the best keeper of all time?
I couldn't tell you the best of all time, because I never saw people like [Ricardo] Zamora, Miguel Angel [Gonzalez] or [Lev] Yashin play. So I'll have to stick to those who I have seen and of those I think I'd choose Peter Schmeichel.
papadopolous: What advice would you give to young goalkeepers looking to forge a professional career?
First of all they should look to enjoy their profession and show enthusiasm; they shouldn't only care about the financial side of it. If they approach it in the most professional way possible then the rest will follow.
Panchito: Do you have any plans for when you hang up your boots?
I'd like to work with young players, become a coach. It'll always be something related to football because I've spent my whole life in the game.
Eri_Kassab: Iker, are you as good a person as you are a keeper?
I've always wanted people to remember me more for being a good person than as a good or bad keeper. So, I think that I can safely say that yes [I am a good person].