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Real Madrid legend Casillas the ‘first and last’ hero for Arsenal goalkeeper Leno

19:49 GMT+3 30/11/2019
Most capped Europeans Iker Casillas
The German shot-stopper admits to being a big fan of the World Cup winner who starred for the Blancos over 16 years before linking up with Porto

Bernd Leno is looking to help Arsenal get back on their feet following the departure of Unai Emery, with the German goalkeeper admitting that Real Madrid legend Iker Casillas is his “first and last footballing hero”.

The Gunners will be looking to experienced heads for inspiration as they prepare to open a new era at Emirates Stadium.

Leno will have an important part to play in that process as the last line of defence for the Gunners.

The 27-year-old overcame a testing start to his spell in north London to nail down a starting berth and repay some of the £20 million ($25m) investment Arsenal made in his services.

He will need to raise his game further in order to get the Gunners back on track, but he does have the perfect role model in World Cup winner Casillas when it comes to perfecting the art of goalkeeping.

Quizzed by Sky Sports on his sporting hero, Leno said: “My first and last footballing hero is Iker Casillas - he was amazing.

“I remember the Champions League final in 2002 against my former club Bayer Leverkusen. He played amazingly and was only 18 years old. He was just unbelievable, and he saved Real Madrid the title.

“Since then he was my idol, and I've followed him throughout my career, watching videos. Unfortunately, I've never played against him, but hopefully I will, or I will meet him.

“Maybe he can play again for Porto when he comes back from his injury (Casillas suffered a heart attack in May), but hopefully one day I can meet him. If I only had one question that I could ask him, it would be 'how have you managed to be so good?'.”

For now, Leno is focused on trying to raise his game in the Premier League.

He admits that the English top-flight presents an entirely different challenge to that posed by the Bundesliga in his homeland, but he feels that his game has adjusted well to the demands of different surroundings.

Leno added: “It's different and it's much harder, I think having gained experience in both leagues. In the Bundesliga, like in Europe, the referees protect the goalkeeper. In the Premier League, they don't.

“It's very hard and in the six-yard box there are no fouls - so you have to get used to it. I feel I adapted very quickly to these players who look to block you.

“I don't remember this ever happening in Germany, but I quite like it.”

Leno’s next outing could come against Norwich on Sunday, with Freddie Ljungberg set to take caretaker charge of Arsenal as the Gunners mull over their options when it comes to a permanent managerial appointment.