Madrid sends ‘Stay strong’ message to former keeper Casillas
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Real Madrid’s players and fans took a moment before Sunday’s 3-2 Spanish league win over Villarreal to send messages of support to former star goalkeeper Iker Casillas as he recovers from a heart attack.
Players posed for a team photo wearing T-shirts that said in Spanish “Iker, we are all with you,” while spectators at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium chanted his name and unfurled a huge banner saying “Madrid fans are with you. Stay strong, eternal captain.”
The 37-year-old Casillas fell ill while training for his club, FC Porto, on Wednesday and remains hospitalized after undergoing a catheterization. Porto’s doctors said the former Spain goalkeeper is expected to fully recover, but it is too early to know if he can keep playing professionally.
Casillas was a fan favorite during his 16 seasons with Madrid, where he won three Champions League and five Spanish league trophies. Casillas also helped Spain to win the 2010 World Cup and two European Championships. He joined Portuguese club Porto in 2015.
Against Villarreal, Madrid bounced back from a 0-0 draw at Getafe and a 1-0 loss at Rayo Vallecano as it struggles to compete consistently despite the return of coach Zinedine Zidane.
Barcelona clinched the league title last week. With Madrid in a distant third place, all the talk in the Spanish capital is what the club will do in the offseason to shake up its squad.
“You can interpret it anyway you want, but I have to pick a squad (for the game), nothing more,” Zidane said afterward. “I am not going to talk about the next season of anyone.”
Little used striker Mariano Díaz and defender Jesús Vallejo responded to their rare starts Sunday by scoring. Díaz struck twice, while Vallejo got his first goal for the club. Gerard Moreno and Juame Costa scored for Villarreal.
Madrid’s Vinicius Junior returned as a late substitute after two months sidelined with a leg injury.
Getafe is trying to join Madrid, second-place Atletico Madrid and Barcelona in the Champions League next season.
Jorge Molina continued his excellent season at age 37 by scoring his 14th league goal before Ángel Rodríguez put the result beyond doubt.
TWO TEAMS RELEGATED
Rayo and Huesca became the first teams to be relegated from the top tier.
Rayo was left seven points from safety with two matches remaining — after Valladolid beat Athletic Bilbao 1-0.
Huesca is also down after it was routed 6-2 by Valencia, leaving it eight points from safety.