Aged 28, Francisco 'Kiko' Casilla Cortes (b. Alcover, Tarragona, 1986) feels like a key man at RCD Espanyol. LFP.es speaks exclusively to him about the team’s aspirations and the path he has travelled as a footballer.
LFP.es: What is your assessment of the opening stage of the season?
Kiko Casilla: We've fronted up at our stadium and taken points in quite a few games. But away from home we haven't earned many points and we've only won one match. If we had done a little better on the road, we’d be talking about a pretty good few months.
"The first thing we have to do is make sure we’re safe. If there’s time then to look beyond that, we will"
LFP.es: What has the team lacked away from home?
Kiko Casilla: We have to control matches more; plus, there have been occasions when we have missed a few chances and in the next play we've conceded a goal. All of this has hurt us. We have to believe in ourselves more and be more focused.
LFP.es: Did you expect to go into the Christmas break in the middle of the table?
Kiko Casilla: The way we've been playing, we deserved a bit more; we could have three or four more points. There are teams in a worse situation and we can still improve. Victory over Rayo has left us in a good position.
LFP.es: What is the team's target?
Kiko Casilla: With the table as tight as it is, the reality is that our target is survival. The first thing we have to do is make sure we're safe, to avoid struggling, and that's something that won’t be easy. If there's time and the opportunity to look beyond that then we will.
"You can tell the manager has worn this shirt, because he transmits it to us"
LFP.es: What do you think of your manager, Sergio González, in his first season in the Liga BBVA?
Kiko Casilla: He's doing a very good job and he still has more to give. The squad is behind him and he’s behind us. As I said, we have the squad make sure we’re safe in the Liga and be able to enjoy the season.
LFP.es: Can you tell he recently wore the Espanyol shirt?
Kiko Casilla: Yes, and he transmits it to us. Espanyol is his boyhood club; he has done important things at the club, like winning a Copa del Rey. There are several of us players who played alongside him, including me, and we’re very happy with his work.
LFP.es: Would you like to follow in his footsteps in the future?
Kiko Casilla: I¡d like to focus my future on being a goalkeeper coach, but I hope that’s still a long way away.
LFP.es: Last year you won your first cap with Spain. What did it mean to you?
Kiko Casilla: I didn't expect it, because there are some great Spanish goalkeepers who are playing very well. When I heard that I¡d been called up I was surprised and, once there, with the players and the group we have, I started to believe it a little. Above all I’m happy when I remember it, because it¡s something unique.
"Winning your first cap with Spain is something unique; I’m happy remembering it"
LFP.es: Now it has been a while, do you have happier memories of it despite conceding a goal?
Kiko Casilla: It was bitter, for conceding a goal and losing the game. Now I value it more, though I struggled a bit. I’ll take the positives from that day, it was a very nice day for me, I’ve been fortunate to win a first cap with Spain. It’s a great memory and now I have to keep working with my team to try to get back on that team sheet.
LFP.es: You said before that there are some very good Spanish goalkeepers; could we say it’s the 'golden age' for keepers in this country?
Kiko Casilla: It's something that has been happening for years. In Spain we have Iker Casillas who, for me, is the best in the world. There are also many very good goalkeeping coaches, which helps to produce so many quality keepers.
LFP.es: What would the perfect goalkeeper be like?
Kiko Casilla: Pepe Reina's shot stopping, Gianluigi Buffon’s aerial game, Casillas’s one-on-one, the footwork and personality of Víctor Valdés... And I’m sure there are many I’ve left out.
LFP.es: Which striker has caused you the most problems?
Kiko Casilla: The two 'cracks' in this league, Leo Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, are the opponents to beat for the goalkeepers. They’re two players who can cause you trouble at any moment; they’re on another level.
"I'm captain and I have more responsibility; Espanyol have always trusted me and I’ll always be grateful to them for that"
© LaLiga - Year 2015
LFP.es: You grew as a footballer in the youth ranks at Real Madrid; what do you remember from that time?
Kiko Casilla: I was there for a long time, from U-15s to the reserves, around 7 years. They treated me well - it’s a club that looks after its youth ranks, not just as a footballer but also as a person. It was a very nice time but I had to be realistic; I knew that if I wanted to continue to develop I needed a change of air.
LFP.es: And in 2011 you arrived at Espanyol where you are currently the starting goalkeeper. Do you feel like an important player in the dressing room?
Kiko Casilla: After the years I've been here, yes. I’m also one of the four captains and I have more responsibility, because the younger guys look up to you. If they'd told me this would happen a few years ago, I would never have believed it. Since I left Real Madrid, Espanyol have trusted my and I'll always be grateful to them for it.
LFP.es: After so many years playing football, do you have any habits before going out onto the field?
Kiko Casilla: The only thing I do is a little jump with my left foot and to tread the field first with my right. I have team-mates who before playing comb their hair or put cologne on; I ask them whether they going on the pull or playing football, but they’re things they do to distract themselves and ease the nerves [he laughs].