Kiko Casilla, A keeper reborn?

16 Sep 2019 02:47 pm, by YorkshireSquare

It’s fair to say that Kiko Casilla had a lot to live up when he signed from Real Madrid in January, it is not often that a Championship club pulls off the signing of a three-time Champions League winning player from one of the worlds best teams. Casilla started his career at Real Madrid before signing for Espanyol where impressive performances lead to a €6 million return to a Real Madrid in 2015. Understudy to Keylor Navas he saw limited first team action but did make notable appearances in the Champions League. During his time at Real Madrid Casilla picked up one La Liga (2017) winners medal and three Champions League (2016, 2017, 2018) winners medals.

But last season did not end so well for the Spanish shot stopper. Casilla is clearly a marvellous stopper, but he ensured that Leeds fans finger nails were bitten down on several occasions. His tendency to come rushing out of his goal whenever the ball goes into his box leaves Leeds fans with their hearts in their mouths. The confusion between Liam Cooper and Casilla which saw Jack Marriott equalise for Derby in the play-off semi-final lead to confidence between the defence and keeper being lost and a crazy 45 minutes of football which ultimately saw Leeds United lose their chance of promotion.

This summer there were question marks over his future at Leeds, and at £35k a week was he too much of a gamble for the club? But Casilla made his intention to stay clear and with the departure of Bailey Peacock-Farrell to Burnley his position as the man between the sticks for Leeds United was secured. Casilla did not want to be defined by the Derby game and his performances so far this season mean that he has already put that game behind him. A charge from his line in the opening game of the season against Bristol may have stopped hearts again but since then he has been consistently steady.

A commanding performance against Wigan saw Casilla make several excellent saves and claims from set pieces and his shot stopping and decision making has kept us in several games already this season. In his true ‘sweeper keeper’ role he also made more passes than any Wigan player in our match at the DW Stadium. In 7 Championship games Casilla has kept 4 clean sheets (57% - joint 1st), concede only 3 goals (0.43 per game - fewest in the league) and the defence combined has saved an amazing 82% of shots on target (best in the league).

It’s always going to take a goalkeeper longer to adjust to a new league, especially one as physical as the Championship but Casilla seems to be adjusting well now. His ability to read the game, come out and block off chances early has provided dividends so far this season. The defence are learning how to play with a sweeper keeper more, their confidence building, they compliment and cover each other rather than going for the same balls. Casilla’s performances this season are one of the main reasons we are top of the table. The play-offs now behind him is Kiko Casilla a keeper reborn?