Kiko Casilla has paid a warm tribute to Leeds supporters and has come clean on what life is really like playing for Marcelo Bielsa.
The Spain international moved to Leeds in January 2019 when he left Real Madrid in what was seen as a major coup for the Yorkshire giants.
And while his form at the club has been littered by some high-profile mistakes, Casilla has established himself as Bielsa’s first-choice keeper when he was been available for selection and helping ensure the Whites had the best defensive record in the Championship.
Casilla is currently two games into an eight-match suspension following a charge of racist abuse, with his deputy, French stopper Illan Meslier since impressing with successive clean sheets before football was brought to an abrupt halt.
And although Bielsa is not sure what the future holds for the Spaniard, Casilla has spoken about the reasons that convinced him to quit the Bernabeu and move to Elland Road.
“English football had always caught my attention and when the opportunity came, I did not think much,” Casilla told Spanish publication L’Esportiu [via Sport Witness].
“In Madrid, in the end I played less, I lived well, but one always wants that feeling of playing every week and in Leeds I found myself in a spectacular league, with very high level footballers, packed stadium.
“It’s the second division [Championship], but it does not feel like it is. It could be compared with many leagues of first division, without a doubt.”
The custodian plays under the guidance of Bielsa, and Casilla talked about how the South American coach has had a positive impact at Leeds United.
Casilla was then asked about playing for Bielsa, the Argentine coach who is incredibly respected in the game, but comes with a reputation as an incredible obsessive.
“He’s a crack, very difficult to define. Bielsa is Bielsa,” Casilla added, before joking: “Speaking of him affectionately, there are days that you would kill him, but then you see how he prepares each week, how he analyses each game as if it were the last, and that is what the footballer notices.
“He knows a lot of football and, although his method is very demanding, he is tough, all of us at Leeds have improved a lot with him.
“It is worth the effort because you raise your head and you see that the team is attractive, that many teams do not stand the pace of play and physical.
“And this is a clear consequence of the work they have done, both he and his coaching staff, arriving at eight in the morning and leaving at eight in the evening.”
Kiko Casilla sends message to Leeds fans
The 33-year-old also had some kind words for Leeds United supporters after admitting their dedication and commitment to the club is almost unique.
“It’s a club that, being in second division, makes you feel like you are a great team,” he said.
“When we play in London during the week, which is a four-hour bus ride from Leeds, there are 3,000 or 4,000 fans who come with us. When we play one hour from Leeds and the entire stand behind the goal is full of fans and our stadium is packed every game.”
With football currently suspended the world over, Casilla was asked how he was coping during the current inactivity and he suggested he felt fortunate to be in a country that wasn’t observing such strong restrictions as his homeland.
“Well, it feels like we are living a dream, but it is the reality that we have to live. With one eye here, where I have my wife and children, and with the other in Alcover [Catalonia], where the family is and where we look with concern at everything that is going on,” he said.
“In the hope that it will end soon, we’re locked up at home, although here in England confinement is not as demanding. We can go out to the park, if you are a family you can go out together respecting the distance with the rest of the people.
“The problem is that this weekend, because of the good weather, I have the feeling that people have spent a little more time and that the measures can be more stringent, given that the number of infected people continues to grow.”