5. Iker Casillas

 

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If Spain’s World Cup win in 2010 was precipitated on the core and philosophy built from Barcelona, then you can imagine how it must have felt for Real Madrid’s captain to lead it.

Indeed, that was not the only clash. If Catalans posed a danger to unity within the Spanish squad, so too did Andalucians and Basques. A team comprised of players from a country so divided by regional differences made it look so much easier than it really was.

At the heart of it, it was Casillas’s influence that united them. His friendship with Xavi Hernandez formed the bonds that ensured regional differences posed no problems. Similarly, his good nature — a factor exemplified by his nickname, “San” ‘(Spanish for Saint)’ — meant that the competition for places with Pepe Reina and Victor Valdes never got destructive.

For example, it was Reina’s advice that allowed Casillas to save Oscar Cardozo’s penalty in the quarter-final against Paraguay. Beyond that, Casillas also prevented Arjen Robben from deciding the Final by twice denying the Dutch winger when he was put through one on one.

And even though he was not at those elevated levels of brilliance that his career had produced before the World Cup, Casillas was able to ensure clean sheets were forthcoming. In the knockout rounds, Spain conceded no goals.

For a team that relied on the asphyxiating powers of possession, it would have been easy for him to be caught off guard. He however maintained his concentration and was there whenever called upon. It meant that it was he who would be called upon to receive the trophy from Sepp Blatter on the occasion of Spain’s first World Cup triumph.

[image courtesy of zimbio]

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