Casillas and 10 others. The Spain captain will make his 162nd appearance for his country in Borisov. Alongside Casillas the rest of Vicente del Bosque’s squad are preparing for the European Championship in France next year, which as things stand will mark the manager’s retirement from the post. Sunday will be Del Bosque’s 100th match in charge of the reigning European champions.
For Casillas, the national team is a welcome relief. The hoo-ha over his situation at Real Madrid is considerably reduced with Spain, if only because those who would like to see him playing badly or just averagely take advantage of the international calendar to put him in a predicament. The timely leak about his possible (although in truth very unlikely) exit from the club he joined aged eight has been this occasion’s attempt at destabilization.
But Casillas remained unfazed. Del Bosque and his teammates close ranks around their captain, first and foremost Sergio Ramos. And the Barcelona contingent, which forms the nucleus of the national team.
The keeper is already a legend. Some time ago he broke the record for international appearances among European goalkeepers of 143, previously held by Thomas Ravelli. That number took the Swede 16 years to reach. Casillas got there in 12. The Spaniard’s next challenge is to break the European outfield record held by Latvia midfielder Vitalijs Astafjevs, who represented his country 165 times.
Then comes the worldwide record for keepers held by Saudi Arabian Mohamed Al-Deayea, who made 178 appearances. Finally, the global record for the most appearances in history by a player in any position; 184, held by Egypt’s Ahmed Hassan.
Only eight players in history have made more international appearances than Casillas, and they are all retired: Mohammed Al-Khilaiwi (Saudi Arabia, 163), Cobi Jones (USA, 164), Astafjevs (Latvia, 165), Iván Hurtado (Ecuador, 167), Hossan Hassan (Egypt, 169), Claudio Suárez (Mexico, 178), Al-Deayea (Saudi Arabia, 178) and Hassan (184, Egypt).
As concerns Casillas’ situation at Real Madrid, there’s no immediate problem. He is determined to see out the final two years of his contract unless the club compensates in full for both of them, and only if he can find another Champions League club to move to. In the meantime he’ll continue to play for Spain, like Del Bosque, at least until the 2016 Euros in France. After that, we’ll see.