Diego Forlan says Porto a step back for Iker Casillas

Iker Casillas' Real Madrid exit and his signing with Porto was "a step back for Iker," said Uruguay striker Diego Forlan in his weekly column in The National.

"I have huge respect for Porto, another great club who consistently challenge for titles," Forlan wrote, adding that it was a tough decision for Real Madrid. "They identify players, develop them and then sell them on for a profit, but let's not pretend they're Real Madrid, one of the biggest clubs in the world. It's a step down for Casillas, just as Robin van Persie leaving Manchester United for Fenerbahce is also a step down."

The 34-year-old Casillas had two years left on his contract with Real, but after three difficult seasons and amid constant transfer speculation this summer, the captain left for a fresh start after a 25-year association at the Bernabeu.

Casillas joined Real's youth academy in 1990 and had been with the club until this summer, winning 17 major honours in that time.

He played 16 years with the first team and made 725 official appearances for the club -- second behind Raul's 741 -- since making his first-team debut in 1999.

A World Cup winner and two-time European champion with Spain, Casillas owns five Primera Division titles with Real, as well as three Champions League trophies and two Copa del Rey crowns.

"Xavi said that Casillas wasn't treated well by people in Spain and his club," Forlan said. "I can see his point, but Xavi's departure from Barcelona last month wasn't a normal experience. Most players don't leave a club having just won the treble. Xavi was rightfully celebrated for his years of service to the club as both man and boy, winning an unprecedented haul of trophies, and was given a wonderful send off before he embarks on a new career in Qatar.

"But what would have been the reaction for Xavi had he left the previous year when Barca won nothing? It wouldn't have been the happy exit it was this time. Casillas could have left Madrid a year ago, and walked out as a European champion."

Earlier this month, Forlan, 36, signed an 18-month contract with Uruguayan Primera Division side Penarol in Montevideo, where he began his youth career and where his father, Pablo, also starred in the 1960s.

Forlan, who earned 112 caps for Uruguay before announcing his international retirement in March, recently left Japanese club Cerezo Osaka after his own 18-month contract expired.

The former Manchester United, Villarreal, Atletico Madrid and Inter striker will make his debut in his native country on Aug. 8, Uruguayan media reported.

The departure of Casillas may pave the way for Real to sign Manchester United goalkeeper David De Gea, who has been linked to a move to Madrid this summer. The former Atletico Madrid keeper is under contract at United for another season.

"Casillas deserves to be a No 1, playing every week, but Madrid want the No 1 in the world," Forlan said. "That looks like it's going to be my old Atletico teammate David De Gea. They had the No 1 in Casillas and now they want the next 'No 1,' who happens to come from Madrid. It's similar to Chelsea, who had a brilliant 'keeper in Petr Cech but wanted Thibaut Courtois, the outstanding young Belgian stopper. Can they be blamed for planning for the future? No.

"So how do you oust a legend like Casillas? It's a tough decision but Madrid need to make them to stay the best, like they did when they let Raul go. Throw a player's pride, money and ego into the mix and it becomes very difficult.

"Madrid could have treated Casillas better," Forlan said. "They could have protected him from attacks in the media and from his own fans. But they didn't. They left him alone, to fend off criticism. Were they building a case against him, to soften the blow of him leaving?"