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With Goal.com ranking Casillas as the 2nd best player in 2011-12, Kishen Patel explains why the Madrid and Spain captain deserves to be alongside Messi and Ronaldo at the top...

Rising up through the ranks of Real Madrid’s youth setup, Iker Casillas today has risen a step above other players and moved onto the “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.” The Madrid captain has been ranked second in the Goal.com Top 50 for the 2011-12 season and it comes as no surprise. If one player in the world deserved it, it was Casillas himself. The Favourite Son of Mostoles has time and again proved that he is the best between the sticks and has won everything there is to win. With his remarkable achievement in being ranked second, a lot of people would disagree with Lionel Messi being ranked behind. But before jumping to conclusions, take a moment to think what all the Madrid shot-stopper had done for club and country last season.

As the last line of defence in a Madrid side that often pays scant regard to such an art, San Iker gets plenty of practice and frequently demonstrates his impressive reflexes, superb agility and innate ability to pull off a spectacular save when one would have expected the opponent to score. Remember his save against Sevilla last season? His forceful personality and will to win ensures he is a born leader and has taken over the captain’s armband ever since club legend Raul Gonzalez departed.

CASILLAS' STATS FOR 2011-12 SEASON
REAL MADRID
Games 51
Goals Conceded 44
Saves 122
Clean Sheets 20
SPAIN AT EURO 2012
Games 6
Goals Conceded  1
Saves 21
Clean Sheets 5

Iker Casillas had a terrific campaign with the capital club in 2011-12. Even though Casillas was a mere spectator over large periods of many games, he never lost his concentration and put in routine saves whenever required. Real Madrid found themselves trailing in a few games but the captain ensured that his team do not lose focus and work harder. Casillas’ work ethic, determination and quality can never be doubted as he is a role model and a perfect example of a player who remains extremely humble despite all that he has won. Casillas’ performances throughout the previous season were remarkable has he always popped up with a save when it mattered the most. He single handedly dragged his team back into contention when he saved two consecutive penalties against Bayern Munich in the Champions League semifinal. What Messi and Ronaldo give to their team is “the edge” and Casillas is no different from them as he proves to be an assured presence in goal.

Casillas not only shone for club but also for his country, Spain, at Euro 2012 held during the summer. Casillas conceded only one goal throughout the competition and came up trumps in the penalty shootout against Portugal when he level pegged his team by saving Joao Moutinho’s effort from the spot. He has earlier shown brilliant reflexes and positioning by making important saves at crucial times especially his two saves against Croatia in the final group game. There aren't many instances when Casillas is at fault for a defeat or underperforming in an important game. This is what matters, a player has to showcase all he is about at the biggest of stages and Casillas has never failed to do that. He surpassed Andoni Zubizaretta’s  long standing appearance record with Spain with consistent performances and he is the only player to have achieved 100 victories with his country. Moreover, he holds the record for most number of international clean sheets with 78 to his credit. This isn’t Playstation, folks! It's real!

‘San Iker’ won several trophies in the 2011-12 season as he won the La Liga with Real Madrid and then went onto win the Euro with Spain. However, there are personal accolades to mention as International Federation of Football History and Statistics (IFFHS) and FIFA/FIFPro both crowning the Spanish Conquistador as the Best Goalkeeper in the World. He was also named in the Euro Team of the Tournament by UEFA for his outstanding performances during the 2012 competition held in Poland and Ukraine. With all these accolades to his name and a consistent performance record, Iker Casillas remains as a strong contender for the FIFA Ballon d’Or award with fellow teammate Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

It had been high time before now with Casillas getting credit for his performances throughout the season. With him being ranked behind club teammate Ronaldo and ahead of the mercurial Messi, critics will be ready with the opinions but Casillas is extremely worthy of this mention because of his achievements and performances. With lots of pundits and former players, including Pele, backing him to win the coveted Ballon d’Or trophy, will a goalkeeper score one over the forwards this time around?

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