My Sporting Week: Even the careers of Real Madrid stars peter out

Iker Casillas played more than 700 first team matches for Real Madrid
Iker Casillas played more than 700 first team matches for Real Madrid

Some fans may struggle to feel sympathy for a multi-millionaire footballer whose career was filled with more trophies than an engraving centre’s warehouse.

But the story of Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas leaving the Bernabeu stadium via the back door after quitting the club he served so well for 17 years saddened me.

Casillas played 725 times for the Spanish giants, winning three European Cups and five league titles along the way, as well as captaining the national team to glory at the 2010 World Cup.

He was once, arguably, the best goalkeeper in the world. But that was several years ago and his form has noticeably dipped in recent seasons as he struggled with several injuries. It’s fair to say his performances at last year’s World Cup would have disappointed him.

There are some who claim he has never recovered from Jose Mourinho’s decision to drop him in 2012.

Real’s hierarchy eventually made no secret of their desire for him to move on, and the 34-year-old finally agreed a move to Porto last week.

His exit from Madrid was by all accounts a messy affair, with the club’s board and the player’s representatives falling out with each other.

The end result was a public farewell for Casillas last week - which several thousand Real fans were expected to attend - was cancelled at short notice.

The famous French sports paper L’ Equipe branded Madrid a “club without class”.

The goalkeeper was eventually persuaded to reconsider, and fans had the chance to say their goodbyes on Monday.

The day before, Casillas had delivered a tearful press conference with no one from the club present.

The vast majority of professional players don’t even receive that, of course.

If they haven’t called it quits already, most receive a face-to-face meeting with their manager, who informs them their services are no longer required.

It’s said that all political careers end in failure.

Football may not be that cruel, but happy endings remain elusive even for the best players.