Raúl and Casillas received a St. Valentine's day present from Real Madrid when they linked what is likely to be the remainder of their playing careers to the club by agreeing contract extensions at lunchtime today. Under the terms of the agreement, Raúl's contract was extended until 2011 (when he will be 35) and Casillas until 2017 (when he will be 36). From that point on both players will then see their contracts automatically extended by a further twelve months if they play a minimum of 30 games for the club during the season. As long as they're fit to play, and if the manager of the day chooses to select them, they will continue to be Real Madrid players.
A lot has been made in Spain of the fact that these contracts are "for life". In reality, the guaranteed contract keeps them at the club until an age that is not unusually high for players at that level, especially for a goalkeeper. The further extensions will be in function of how useful they are to the club at that point, so I can see little reason to object to them. It should also be noted that one other player in the squad, Ruud van Nistelrooy, already has this extension clause in the contract he renewed last month.
Interestingly, neither Guti, who, apart from Raúl, has been at the club for the longest period, nor Sergio Ramos, who was also in Ramón Calderón's sights for this type of contract, were included in today's opresentation. One can only speculate whether one or both may soon see the club reward their efforts in this fashion. Something else that's not been widely reported is whether the players' image rights still remain with the club. Both Raúl and Casillas are among the most valuable players in Spain in terms of their advertising potential and tying their fortunes to the club ensures a steady steam of revenue, helping to keep Real at the top of the table of football clubs in terms of earnings.
Casillas had some words of encouragement for his former team-mate Ronaldo, who suffered a career-threatening knee injury in a Serie A game last night: "on a day like today, with such good news both for Raúl and for me, I want to remember a colleague like Ronaldo, who is suffering after the injury he sustained last night. From here I want to send him the best wishes of the club and all the players."