Having learnt the game at both Real Madrid CF's fábrica and the RCD Espanyol academy, Kiko Casilla (Tarragona, 1986) is one of the big names of the 2013/14 season in the Liga BBVA. Although he tried out as an outfield player, Kiko always knew that his place was between the sticks. "I liked throwing myself on the floor" he told LFP.es laughing.
He also recognises that he has been lucky to work with some of the great keepers (Carlos Kameni, Diego López, Jordi Codina, etc), but that "Iker Casillas has always been a role model" for him. The 27-year-old spoke of his current form, remembered his first ventures in football and showed his ambitious side: "After cementing our position in the division we'll go for Europe"
LFP.es: 1.9 metres…I imagine that with your stature you always wanted to be a goalkeeper.
Kiko Casilla: I have always liked throwing myself on the floor and getting back up. Although I tried out as an outfield player, I always wanted to be a keeper.
LFP.es: Half Real Madrid academy player, half Espanyol academy player, what did you learn during your time at the clubs?
Kiko Casilla: I have great memories of Real Madrid. I was there from 14 to 21 years of age and it is a club that really looks after its academy. They were part of the reason I became a footballer. Espanyol put their faith in me and I will always be grateful for that, because I hadn't played for two years.
LFP.es: 24 matches with 30 goals conceded makes Espanyol the fifth team on the least goals conceded list and you the second meanest keeper. How do those figures make you feel?
Kiko Casilla: Little by little the work over many years is paying off. There are things you don't like, but which are part of football and which you have to go through. But all that helps me enjoy what is happening now and to realise how difficult it was to reach the Liga BBVA.
LFP.es: Do you think you have now come of age between the sticks?
Kiko Casilla: Since the first match I played for Espanyol (on the 20th of January 2008), there has been progress. I feel that I am more mature now, although I know that at 27 I am still quite young, but I feel comfortable with my responsibilities.
LFP.es: Your great performances this season have made you one of the stars of this campaign. How far can Kiko Casilla go?
Kiko Casilla: It would be a mistake to set myself a limit. What I am doing now is going well. I go out to enjoy every match, without pressuring myself or setting limits, and doing what I know best, which is being a keeper.
"I go out to enjoy every match, without pressuring myself and doing what I know best, which is being a keeper"
LFP.es: Do you consider yourself an essential member of the team?
Kiko Casilla: I consider myself a member of it like everyone else. Obviously, if you play you have a more important role than some others. But this team is a really great, down-to-earth, healthy and well-balanced group. Of course, I notice that people are starting to pay attention, but I don't feel special or a star.
LFP.es: Would the icing on the cake of a great season be reaching Europe with Espanyol?
Kiko Casilla: Now we are on our way to achieving our first goal of the season, cementing our place in the division. With the quick to-and-fro of points in the Liga BBVA, staying up is the first thing we want to achieve. Then, if there are enough matches left to fight for Europe, we will be the first to do so.
LFP.es: Little by little, Espanyol has become one of the teams to look out for this season in the Liga BBVA. How do you define your team?
Kiko Casilla: According to our opponents and the coaches, we are a difficult team that is hard to beat. We are a unit. The team knows what it is doing and so far that has served us very well.
LFP.es: It looks like you too are going to be hot property next season. How are you coping with the rumours?
Kiko Casilla: Fine, I have lived with them for a few months now. Of course, there are rumours and stories but I don't stop for a second to think about them. It would be a mistake on my part to think about anything other than Espanyol.
LFP.es: It is a World Cup year, do you see yourself competing to be on Del Bosque's squad?
Kiko Casilla: Any player would like to be there, I'm not going to deny it. I have been lucky enough to play in some of the youth teams and pulling on your country's shirt is a great feeling. I am hopeful but it is unlikely.