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'His legend status was secure long ago' - Barcelona star Messi pays tribute to Real Madrid hero Casillas after retirement

13:22 BST 05/08/2020
Iker Casillas Lionel Messi 2020
The Argentine has opened up on his "special rivalry" with the ex-Spain goalkeeper while describing him as one of the best players in La Liga history

Lionel Messi has paid tribute to Real Madrid hero Iker Casillas following his retirement, insisting the shot stopper's "status as a legend of the game was secured long ago."

Casillas called time on an illustrious 22-year career on Tuesday, as he delivered a heartfelt message to his followers on social media announcing his decision.

He wrote on social media: “The most important thing is the path you travel and the people who accompany you, not the destination that it takes you. I think I can say, without hesitation, that this has been the right path and the dream destination. Thanks.”

Casillas served as Madrid's No 1 goalkeeper between 1999 and 2015, winning five La Liga titles and four European Cups, while also racking up 725 appearances for the club.

The 39-year-old also enjoyed unprecedented success on the international stage, helping Spain secure back-to-back European Championships with a 2010 World Cup triumph wedged in between.

Barcelona superstar Messi came up against Casillas on numerous occasions while he was at Santiago Bernabeu, with their battles in El Clasico destined to live long in the memory of supporters from both clubs.

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner acknowledged the Spaniard's achievements after seeing him hang up his gloves, telling AS: "Iker is retiring today, but his status as a legend of the game was secured long ago - not just because he was one of La Liga's best players, but also because he won everything at international level."

Messi also addressed Casillas directly to thank the shot-stopper for bringing the best out of him, adding: "You’re a fantastic goalkeeper and were a really tough opponent, I have to say. Looking back, I think it was a really special rivalry that pushed us to reach new levels every time we came up against each other."

Casillas took on a new challenge in the Primeira Liga after leaving Madrid, signing a two-year contract with Porto.

The veteran keeper added another two league titles to his collection while featuring in 156 games in all competitions, before being struck down with a heart attack in May 2019.

The Madrid great moved into a coaching role at Porto after making a full recovery, and publicly expressed his desire to run for the presidency of the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) in March.

Casillas ended up withdrawing his candidacy amid the coronavirus outbreak, with his next role in the game set to begin back at the Bernabeu as an advisor to Madrid president Florentino Perez.