'Casillas could've stood behind his goal & we'd still have hit him!' - Nowotny reflects on 2002 Champions League final

Goal.com

Former Bayer Leverkusen defender Jens Nowotny has hailed the performance of Iker Casillas in the 2002 Champions League final, recounting the night that helped grow the Spaniard's legend. 

Casillas made a memorable cameo at Hampden Park in Glasgow, as Real Madrid defeated the Bundesliga side 2-1 to lift Europe's biggest club prize. 

The game would be remembered for Zinedine Zidane's stunning first-half winner, as the Frenchman volleyed a ball home that dropped from the sky to score one of the Champions League's greatest ever goals.

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But Casillas also played his part in Madrid's European title. When Cesar went down with an injury in the 68th minute, the 20-year-old stepped in and made a number of saves to preserve Madrid's win.

Casillas enjoyed a decorated career that included three Champions League titles and five La Liga crowns with Madrid, as well as two European titles with Spain and the 2010 World Cup.

Speaking to Goal, Nowotny remembered the goalkeeper's performance on a night where Leverkusen could have won their first European title. 

"We were superior and made a great game," Nowotny said. "But that night Iker Casillas's star rose. He could have gone behind his goal and we would still have hit him!"

Leverkusen nearly completed a fairytale run in 2001-02, as they got past Liverpool and Manchester United en route to the final in Glasgow. 

"We could keep up with the Galacticos," Nowotny said. "Not only with Real, that season we beat Barcelona and Juventus, we knocked Liverpool and Man Utd out of the competition. We had no reason to admire other players."

Nowotny retired from football in 2007 at age 33, calling time on a career that started in 1992 and saw him represent Germany at two European Championships and one World Cup.

The former defender admits that the game has changed significantly since his playing days, saying that the role of money is more pronounced than it used to be.

"Everything is marketed somehow," Nowotny said. "Spanish cup finals take place in Saudi Arabia, international tournaments are inflated so that more and more teams can participate. There is only higher, faster.

"That is the basic idea of the free-market economy. Both the players and the bosses take part in this. It is about money.

"The most honest in modern football in my opinion is the ultra, the die-hard fan who would do anything for his club. If a player scores a goal for Leverkusen in his last game and kisses the logo and then scores for Bayern in the next game and kisses the logo again, I find it morally questionable. 

"But maybe it's just an honest way to say: 'I don't give a sh*t what logo is on my chest. I play here because of the money.'"

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