The latest in a long line of Spanish goalkeeping greats is La Roja captain Iker Casillas, whose agility, speed, reflexes and cool head in one-on-one situations have earned him the nickname ‘San Iker' (Saint Iker) at club side Real Madrid.
Born on 20 May 1981, Casillas earned his first call-up for the Madrid first-team at the age of just 17, having come all the way up through the youth ranks at the Spanish giants. And it was current national-team coach Vicente del Bosque who gave the custodian his top-flight debut in 1998/99, with Casillas making the Los Blancos' No1 jersey his own the following campaign and contributing to victory in the 1999/00 UEFA Champions League.
A winner with Spain at the 1999 edition of the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Nigeria, in 2000 Casillas was also voted Europe's best player under the age of 21, though it would be Madrid's 2001/02 Champions League success (the club's ninth win in the competition) that would cement his status among the world's finest shot-stoppers. Having lost his starting place to the more experienced Cesar Sanchez after a rare period of uncertainty, Casillas replaced the injured Cesar late on in the final in Glasgow and proceeded to thwart the Bayer Leverkusen onslaught with a series of phenomenal saves.
Since then Casillas's No1 status for club and country has never been in doubt, with the player travelling to two editions of the FIFA World Cup (Korea/Japan 2002 and Germany 2006) and three UEFA EUROs (Belgium and the Netherlands 2000, Portugal 2004 and Austria and Switzerland 2008) since making his La Roja debut in June 2000.
And though the highlight of his international career is clearly Spain's win at EURO 2008, which ended the country's 44-year major trophy drought, two instances of penalty-shootout excellence also spring to mind. Against Republic of Ireland in the Round of 16 at Korea/Japan 2002, two Casillas saves sent his team to the last eight, while against Spain's bogey team and reigning world champions Italy at EURO 2008, the Madrid man again saved twice to book a semi-final berth and pave the way for an eventual Spanish victory.
Perhaps surprisingly for a man at the very top of his profession, Casillas's feet remain very much on the ground. Modest and easy-going off the pitch, he never forgets his roots in the working-class Madrid suburb of Mostoles and devotes much of his time to charitable causes.