Iker Casillas was a bored schoolboy who looked at the clock and tried not to fall asleep when Real Madrid knocked on his classroom door to get him out of his technical drawing lessons and fly him to Norway in 1997.
There was an injury crisis among the club keepers and they needed the 16-year-old student to play a Champions League group match against Rosenborg.
His decision to stop just before his 39th birthday means he will not live up to his ambition to play until he is 40.
Legendary Spanish goalkeeper Iker Casillas has decided to stop 38 with football
The legendary goalkeeper recently announced the decision to end his amazing 22-year career
The goalkeeper poses with the trophies he won during a glittering spell in Real Madrid
But it’s the only dream he couldn’t quite achieve – everything else came to him in an extraordinary 22-year career.
“They took me out of school because Bodo Illgner and Santi Canizares were injured and they needed me as a second keeper,” he said in an interview with Sportsmail.
Canizares eventually recovered and the young Iker was only Real’s third goalie, but coach Jupp Heynckes still said he had to change and take his place on the bench.
“I knew who they were all, but nobody had an idea who I was,” he said about his illustrious teammates.
He would eventually become one of the club’s most famous sons and win the European Cup three times. First he was the youngest keeper to reach the 2000 goal against Valencia.
Casillas won the first of three European cups with a victory over Valencia in Paris in 2000
Casillas embraces Zinedine Zidane after helping Real to the Champions League 2002
Two years later he was not picked to start against Bayer Leverkusen in Hampden, but when Cesar Sanchez sustained a foot injury Iker – ‘Saint Iker’ as admiring supporters would call him – the last 20 minutes came up and made three brilliant saves to save ensure that Madrid won the final.
That was the ninth European Cup in Madrid and a full 12 years later Casillas would still be in the goal when they win their 10th.
As a young keeper, he never stood out for what he could do with his feet and he wasn’t someone who dominated his territory, but he could do one thing better than his colleagues – stopping the ball at the back of the net – and that made him the world’s largest for so long.
For pure shot-stopping, nobody was better. And that fundamental power didn’t matter anymore when Arjen Robben broke through in the 2010 World Cup finale and Casillas came out to deny him with an extended right leg.
That would win the world championship as much as Andres Iniesta Spain’s goal.
When he won his third Champions League in Lisbon, this was a remarkable comeback. A certain kind of hardness is needed to survive at Real Madrid and when Jose Mourinho took over as manager, he quickly made it clear that he wanted a new keeper.
Casillas cancels the European championship after Spain has finished its 44-year wait for a trophy
Casillas’ one-on-one rescue by Arjen Robben in the 2010 World Cup Final proved crucial
Casillas shines as he holds up the world cup after the victory over the Netherlands in Johannesburg
Casillas celebrates with Sergio Ramos, Alvaro Arbeloa, Raul Albiol and Xabi Alonso
Spain completed a historic treble by defending the European Championship title in 2012
When a call from Casillas to Xavi from Barcelona, after another Clasico had descended into an ugly fight, ended in reconciliation, Mourinho did not like the olive branch held by one of his players.
The saga took place next to the soap of the ‘Madrid mole’ with the main suspect of Casillas in a leaking dressing room that gave away the selections of Mourinho’s team before they were officially announced.
Mourinho urged the club to buy another goalkeeper and eventually dropped Casillas for 26-year-old reserve team-keeper Antonio Adan.
The feud divided supporters with some tidying up with Mourinho against Casillas, but when Carlo Ancelotti replaced Mourinho, he made Casillas the goalkeeper for European matches, allowing him to win his third Champions League in Lisbon.
He moved to Porto in 2015 and won the 2017-18 competition there. He ran away from the existence of the goldfish bowl that could become Madrid.
Casillas was frozen by Jose Mourinho after they dropped out during his period as a manager
Casillas celebrates the famous Cibeles statue in Madrid after the victory of Copa del Rey in 2011
Casillas embraces Marcelo while Real starts his historic Decima in the Champions League
Casillas raises the European cup after Real’s extra time saving at Atletico Madrid in 2014
Casillas poses with the Copa del Rey after victory over Barcelona in the Mestalla in 2014
Time has washed away any sense of division in the Spanish capital. After his recent horror, his name was never sung by supporters than at the Bernabeu.
Messages of support came in with former Real Madrid team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo, posting on social media: ‘Good luck my friend. I hope you get better soon.’
All his friends in football wanted him to put his health first, even if that meant stopping. Although he did not exclude anything when he left the hospital, he has finally decided to draw a line under his remarkable career.
He remembered the first sample of Champions League football as a 16-year-old Sportsmail: “I was taken to the headmaster, and before I knew it, I was sitting on a school minibus going home, where my mother frantically packed my bag for me.”
It was just the start of an incredible journey. He now has a lot to look back on, and a more impressive trophy distance than any other keeper in history.
Casillas ended its playing days in Portugal with Porto after leaving Real Madrid in 2015