Today we officially welcome 32 year old Spanish goalkeeper Kiko Casilla to Leeds United. Casilla becomes the first signing of this January window on a free transfer from Real Madrid with Leeds having bought out the remainder of his 18 month contract. There is no mistake, Victor Orta has pulled off a real coup here, it is not often that a Championship club can announce the signing of a three-time Champions League winning player from one of the worlds best teams.
Casilla started his career at Real Madrid, featuring for their C and B teams before signing for Espanyol. He made his La Liga debut in 2008 but due to stiff competition from Cristian Alvarez struggled to pin down a first team place. His opportunity came in 2013 after Alvarez left Espanyol after which Casilla became the number one.
Impressive performances at Espanyol lead to a return to Real Madrid signing for €6 million on a five year contract in 2015. Understudy to Keylor Navas he saw limited first team action but did make notable appearances in the Champions League. At his time at Real Madrid Casilla picked up one La Liga (2017) winners medal and three Champions League (2016, 2017, 2018) winners medals.
The signing of Thibaut Courtois from Chelsea will have pushed Casilla further down the pecking order at the Bernabeu and he is now looking forward to a new challenge in English football. Speaking with LUTC he said…
I want to start a new challenge in English football and am really keen to start as soon as possible. Leeds United is a really historic club in England with a massive fan base that is perfect and my desire is to help put the club in its real place in the Premier League.
I am really pleased to work with Marcelo Bielsa, I have a lot of information from when he worked in Spain, I watched the teams when he worked there and I talked with former players who worked with him and they all told me amazing things about him. I am really happy to work with him.
Perhaps in 30 or 40 years people will talk about the Real Madrid team I played in which won the three Champions Leagues consecutively. It is true it was a pleasure to be part of, but for me this is in the past now. I need to focus on the future and think about the most important thing for me now which is Leeds United.
Goalkeeper is one of the key areas Marcelo Bielsa identified as needing strengthening since the injury of Jamal Blackman with 20 year-old Will Huffer having to deputise for Bailey Peacock-Farrell once already this season. Many names were suggested but I don’t think anyone expected the signing of such a quality keeper in the peak of his career age wise. This is certainly a signing with an eye on promotion and the Premier League.
Casilla's ability aside it would be harsh to drop Peacock-Farrell and I fully expect him to be between the sticks against Stoke. Casilla will need time in the Under 23s to get used to the physicality and tempo of English football and to get to know his teammates but I fully expect him to be first choice keeper towards the end of the season. Victor Orta must have really impressed Casilla with the ambition of Leeds United, a player does not drop to the Championship from Real Madrid if they are not expecting great things.
This signing excites me in so many ways.