MADRID (Reuters) - Former Barcelona and Spain midfielder Xavi has hit out at Real Madrid for failing to give departing captain and goalkeeper Iker Casillas the send-off he deserved before his switch to Porto.
A tearful Casillas appeared alone in the Bernabeu stadium press room on Sunday and the 34-year-old choked up several times as he read a farewell statement that brought to an end 16 seasons in the Real first team.
A wave of criticism followed, with Casillas’s parents also saying in a newspaper interview their son had been forced out of the club by president Florentino Perez.
Real responded by organising an official presentation with Perez and Casillas at the Bernabeu on Monday, when hundreds of fans who turned up in sweltering heat chanted for the president to quit and gave Casillas a rousing ovation.
The contrast between Sunday’s surreal appearance and the send-off Barca gave his close friend Xavi was telling.
A product of Barca’s academy, Xavi, 35, joined Qatari side Al Sadd at the end of last season and fans, officials and team mates paid homage to him at a packed Nou Camp stadium where the midfielder was surrounded by family and friends.
Xavi wrote in Spanish daily La Vanguardia on Tuesday that Casillas had not changed since they first met at the Under-17 World Cup in Egypt in 1997 and that he remained “a good person”.
“That’s why it leaves a bad taste what is happening with him now,” Xavi wrote.
”In recent years, I have seen that he is not enjoying himself like before.
”He even seems bitter and I think everyone in this country (Spain) should think about this.
“It cannot be that maturing Spanish athletes are not shown sufficient respect, that people neglect to value everything they have done for their sport and instead focus on their defects, sometimes with malicious intent.”
Xavi drew a comparison with Juventus and Italy keeper Gianluigi Buffon, who he said still appeared to be enjoying himself in goal at the age of 37.
”I look at Iker and I have the feeling that lately he is playing under pressure, as if he has to prove what a great keeper he is in every match, without the joy he always had.
“Now he is going to Porto and I am sure he will be welcomed as a hero. Away from here they will appreciate him more.”
Reporting by Iain Rogers, editing by Amlan Chakraborty