Real Madrid moved to sign a replacement for departed captain Iker Casillas on Friday, agreeing a deal to buy Kiko Casilla from Espanyol for a reported six million euros ($6.5m, £4.2m).
In a statement on their official website, Madrid said the 28-year-old would sign a five-year deal once he had passed a medical at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Casilla was on Madrid’s books as a youngster before moving to Espanyol in 2007.
With a surname confusingly similar to that of the departing hero, Casilla was playing in the second division just four years ago.
However, he is now on the fringes of the national team and made his Spain debut last November, replacing Casillas during a 1-0 friendly defeat to Germany.
He will compete for the Madrid goalkeeper’s position with Costa Rica’s Keylor Navas, under former Liverpool and Napoli coach Rafael Benitez, who has taken the helm at Real ahead of the new season.
Meanwhile speculation simmers on in the Spanish and British media that Madrid will at some point sign David de Gea, 24, from Manchester United as Casillas’s top long-term replacement.
“We have reached a deal and Kiko Casilla will be transferred to Real Madrid,” Espanyol’s president Joan Collet told a news conference alongside the player.
Casilla joined Espanyol in 2007 but spent spells on loan to lower league clubs Cadiz and Cartagena before returning to the Barcelona-based side, for whom he played 126 official matches overall.
“It is a difficult moment for me after so many years with a club that I love, but I knew the chance to join Real Madrid was a unique opportunity and I wanted to seize it,” Casilla told a news conference.
“It is a train that only goes by once.”
After his temporary exile in the lower divisions, he said, “sometimes it is good to suffer in order to get somewhere. Sometimes it is worth it. Football has not given me an easy time but that way you enjoy moments like this much more.”
“I am as excited as a young boy. I went there when I was 14 and now I am lucky enough to be going back.”
Madrid drew criticism for the unceremonious departure of Spain hero Casillas last weekend after 25 years at his boyhood club.
He left for Portuguese side Porto after a tough few years, having fallen out with former coach Jose Mourinho and club president Florentino Perez. – Agence France-Presse