If there’s one man across world football who has been there, done it all and got the t-shirt to show for, that man is almost certainly Spain and Real Madrid legend Iker Casillas.
Currently plying his trade in Portugal for Porto, the 35-year-old goalkeeper has had an illustrious career – mainly for Madrid and his country– that’s seen him win everything possible at the top level.
Since beginning his career in Madrid at 16 years of age, Casillas has won five La Liga titles, two Copa del Rey’s, three Champions League titles and secured both the World Cup and European Championships.
There are very few around that have enjoyed the sublimely successful career that the boy from suburban Madrid has, and it seems like his footballing journey is set to enter one final chapter next season.
After a two-year spell at Porto that endeared him to the Portuguese fans, AS report that messages on his social media suggest that the club aren’t set to activate the clause for another year’s football.
With his contract ending at the end of June – and with no confirmation of Porto’s stance on Casillas as of yet – the door is well and truly open to offers from elsewhere, ahead of a potential free transfer.
According to Sky Bet, a move to the Premier League and to Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool side is somewhat surprisingly the odds-on choice at the moment, with a move to Anfield priced at 5/4.
Spanish outlet AS reported a fortnight ago that the Reds were one of the contenders to sign the experienced ‘keeper should he leave, and this is well and truly reflected in the latest odds on offer.
With Champions League football on the horizon again for the Reds after a three-year absence from Europe’s biggest stage, it’s arguable that they need an experienced goalkeeper to help them go far.
In the shape of Casillas there’s really no bigger goalkeeper – perhaps bar Gianluigi Buffon – that has a similar wealth of knowledge of European football, and the addition of Casillas may prove priceless.
Although time is certainly not on his side at 36-years-old, there’s no doubting that Casillas still has the potential to perform at the top level; his agility and tendency to produce the acrobatic in goal is unaltered after all these years, and his instinctive reflexes between the sticks are equally impressive.
Add to this a leadership that he’s built up after over 500 Real Madrid appearances and 167 games for the Spanish national side, and he appears to be the perfect man to discipline Liverpool’s ropey defence.
The addition of Loris Karius has failed to set the Premier League alight after an inconsistent season at best and, although first-choice Simon Mignolet has improved, he’s not the world-class man they need.
Both of the goalkeepers on Liverpool’s books are prone to individual errors and have erratic natures, and with a potential challenge on four fronts next season they are in need a more reliable shot-stopper.
Alternatively, a return home to La Liga at either Espanyol or Valencia is priced at the next best odds of 9/1 and 10/1 respectively but a goalkeeper of his class is unlikely to want his career to end at lowly sides.
Likewise, interest from Premier League sides Bournemouth and Everton have been set at 12/1 and 14/1 but neither are primed to make a move for Casillas, as the Cherries recently re-signed Asmir Begovic and the Telegraph report today that Everton are on the verge of a £30 million swoop for Jordan Pickford.
It seems like Liverpool are the firm front-runners if Porto do in fact opt not to extend his contract to another season, and although the Liverpool Echo reported at the end of last month that boss Klopp has no interest in another goalkeeper this summer, it’ll be tough to say no to a man like Iker Casillas.
Featured Image: All rights reserved by Antonio Braza.
Porto 0-5 Liverpool: Three talking points from Estádio do Dragão
Rob Meech brings us three talking points from Estádio do Dragão, as Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool dismantled Champions League opponents Porto.
Sadio Mane plundered a hat-trick as Liverpool produced a five-star performance to thrash Porto and virtually seal their place in the quarter-finals of the Champions League.
Mane opened the scoring on 25 minutes before adding two more in the second half which, coupled with goals from Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino, made it a hideously one-sided affair at the Estádio do Dragão.
Porto offered precious little resistance during the 90 minutes and were completely outclassed by a Liverpool side bursting with confidence.
The return leg at Anfield in three weeks’ time will be nothing more than a formality to confirm the Reds’ place in the last eight.
Here are three talking points, as Jurgen Klopp’s men sounded a warning to the European elite…
Mane emerges from the shadows of Salah and Firmino
Liverpool’s ‘Fab Four’ has been a member short since Philippe Coutinho’s big-money switch to Barcelona in January.
But there has been no sign that the Reds’ form is suffering as a result. If anything, they look stronger by the game.
By his own high standards, Mane has had a relatively quiet campaign thus far and been overshadowed somewhat by the exploits of Salah and Firmino, both of whom were also on the scoresheet against Porto.
But the Senegalese forward returned to his dazzling best on the European stage to help Liverpool take total control of this last 16 tie.
Although he had a helping hand from the Porto keeper for his first goal, which really should have been stopped, Mane took his next two with great precision to round off a sensational evening for the visitors.
Klopp will be delighted that the former Southampton man proved to be so influential in arguably their most important game of the season.
Free-scoring Liverpool will take some stopping
It is not just Liverpool’s performances in the Champions League that have drawn widespread praise, but the amount of goals they have scored in the process.
No club have netted more than the Reds, with the five they bagged in their first knockout fixture since 2009 leapfrogging them above French giants Paris Saint-Germain.
It is now 28 goals in total for Klopp’s free-scoring charges, whose attacking weaponry proved too hot to handle for their Portuguese opponents.
As they showed against Sevilla in the group stage, Liverpool’s defensive frailties can sometimes undermine them.
And when, as expected, they line-up in the quarter-finals, they are likely to face a side with much more to offer in attack than Porto did.
However, new signing Virgil van Dijk, who made his Champions League debut for the Reds, should bring stability and leadership to the back line.
On this evidence, they look like viable contenders for the main prize.
Klopp’s reign is delivering the goods
When Klopp joined Liverpool in the autumn of 2015, many Liverpool supporters believed he would bring them immediate success.
The gregarious German is still yet to win silverware at Anfield, but there is no denying the club are taking significant strides forward under his management this season.
Some of the money they received from Barcelona for Coutinho has already been reinvested into the squad and more high-profile arrivals are likely to follow in future transfer windows.
Liverpool remain prone to suffering off-days against lesser opposition, perhaps more so than any of their main domestic rivals, but they possess the armoury to blow away teams of the highest quality.
Even Manchester City, the runaway Premier League leaders, recently succumbed to the Reds’ attacking might.
As always, the proof will come at the end of the season.
But under Klopp, Liverpool are playing an attractive brand of football that is illuminating Europe.
Everton linked with January swoop for Porto’s Ivan Marcano – who is he?
Despite the fact that Everton had an extremely busy summer transfer window, bringing nine new additions into Goodison Park, there was still a lingering feeling of dissatisfaction after the deadline.
The lack of a proven replacement for the outgoing Romelu Lukaku is perhaps the main concern heading back to Premier League football but boss Ronald Koeman also missed out on a defender.
The Daily Mail believe that the Dutchman is already preparing himself for a January raid for experienced Porto defender Ivan Marcano as he searches to add strength in depth to his back-line.
Who is Ivan Marcano?
Born in the Spanish region of Santander in 1987 Marcano was only ten years old when he was snapped up by the Racing Santander youth system, working his way up through the age groups.
After a two-year spell at Racing’s ‘B’ team he was awarded the step-up to the first-team in 2007, making his debut against Almeria – although it didn’t go to plan as he side-lined himself for months.
He played a starring role the following season though, becoming Racing Santander’s preferred left-back option, and his impressive displays caught the attention of prestigious La Liga outfit Villarreal.
It didn’t quite go to plan after this move, however, finding himself falling down the pecking order before eventually being sent out on-loan to fellow Spanish side Getafe and Greek side Olympiakos in consecutive seasons, before finally being off-loaded for good and moving to Russia’s Rubin Kazan.
A moderately successful two-year stint followed before he made the definitive switch to FC Porto back in 2014, replacing Manchester City-bound Eliaquim Mangala, and he’s featured 93 times since.
What could he bring to Goodison Park?
Whilst it’s highly unlikely that boss Koeman considers the 30-year-old Spanish defender as an immediate first-team player, the wealth of experience that Marcano can bring will be highly useful.
With Phil Jagielka’s performances inconsistent at best and Ramiro Funes-Mori suffering from a long-term knee injury there’s a need for additional personnel, especially with the Europa League in mind.
His experience of the Champions League with Porto could prove priceless should Everton manage to negotiate their way out of a tricky group, and his presence off the pitch could be as vital as his presence on it.
The versatility of Marcano will also be something that has particularly turned the Everton manager’s head, with his ability to play as a left-back or a left-sided central defender a catalyst for his interest.
And it’s more than likely that the Spaniard would slot in and do a good job too, making a name for himself over in Portugal with his disciplined approach at the back and his ability to communicate well with his fellow defenders, keeping things tight and compact and stifling the opposition’s attacks.
He is strong in the air – making him perfect adept for the competitive and physical nature of the Premier League – and he’s handy at the other end as well, scoring six times in three years at Porto.
How likely is a move?
The report claims that Everton sent representatives from the club to watch Marcano in action last month prior to making an enquiry to the Portuguese side, only to be priced out of a summer move.
But it is understood that Porto are willing to listen to offers from January onwards, with Marcano out of a contract next summer, and they could be more willing to negotiate the closer this comes.
At 30 years of age he is not unreplaceable and, as long as Everton can come in with the right offer to tempt Porto into a sale, then there’s no reason as to why a move couldn’t be completed in January.
Manchester City set their sights on Porto midfielder Danilo – should they make the move?
Reports surfacing from Portugal over the course of Friday morning claim that Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola could finish his summer spree with a move for Porto midfielder Danilo.
The 25-year-old is being closely monitored by both City and French giants Paris Saint-Germain, according to A Bola, with the Blues outlining a plan to secure his signature for the 2017-18 season.
However, the fact that Danilo only penned a new contract at Porto in January means that the club’s owners are unwilling to open any negotiations on his €55 million (£50.6 million) release clause.
Would Danilo bring much to the Etihad?
Because what’s better than one Danilo? Two of them.
Although it may seem that Manchester City have midfield options streaming out of their ears following their recruits over the past few seasons, a move for Danilo may in fact be quite smart.
If the report is true in the claims that City would come to an agreement which sees him join Guardiola’s side in Manchester for the 2018-19 season, most likely allowing him to spend one further year in Portugal with Porto, he could almost be a like-for-like Yaya Toure replacement in 12 months’ time.
The 34-year-old Ivorian signed a new one-year deal at the end of last season, and it’s looking increasingly possible that this is Toure’s last year at the Etihad after nearly eight years of service.
Guardiola has made a point of investing in youth in each position – primarily focusing on his ageing defensive line this summer – and a holding midfielder is arguably the final piece in the City jigsaw.
Although Toure will no doubt do a great job once again this season, performing at his usual consistent best, Guardiola is thinking for the future and 25-year-old Danilo would be a great coup.
Since arriving at Porto from lowly Portuguese side Maritimo in 2015 he has gone from strength to strength, making a name for himself and locking down a starting spot inside his first season there.
Much like Toure, he is happiest sitting as the deepest midfielder, allowing his team-mates to move further up the pitch into the attack, but he is customary to his own driving, rampaging runs as well.
The Portuguese powerhouse is also incredibly strong – yet deceptively agile – and combine this alongside his raw technical ability on the ball and City could potentially sign an excellent all-rounder to push them closer to silverware, and Danilo could easily become an indispensable team member.
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