Two Spanish giants bid farewell to their boyhood clubs on Sunday as Andres Iniesta waved goodbye to Barcelona and Fernando Torres went out with a bang at Aletico Madrid.
Torres scored twice on his final appearance for Atletico, even if a Lucas Hernandez red card helped Eibar claim a 2-2 draw on the last day of the La Liga season.
Iniesta’s 22-year association with Barcelona, meanwhile, ended with a victory as the player marked out as the Spaniard’s successor, Philippe Coutinho, proved the difference in a 1-0 win over Real Sociedad.
With a tear in his eye, Iniesta walked off to a standing ovation from the Camp Nou in the second half, having unfastened his captain’s armband and handed it to Lionel Messi.
He hugged the Argentinian and then embraced the rest of his colleagues. The 34-year-old clapped the crowd, blew them a kiss, before exhaling and ducking into the dug-out.
An extravagent post-match ceremony followed, celebratng both Iniesta and the winning of La Liga and the Copa del Rey. Barca’s players returned to the pitch all wearing shirts with Iniesta’s name on their backs.
“It is a difficult day,” Iniesta said in a speech to the crowd. “But it has been a wonderful 22 years. It has been a privilege and a pleasure to defend and represent this club, for me the best in the world. I will keep you in my heart forever.”
Barca’s players then huddled beneath Iniesta and tossed him into the air.
“I feel privileged,” coach Ernesto Valverde said. “Just as they all do to have been a part of it. He is a unique, unrepeatable player. There is none like him.”
After 22 years at the club and 16 in the first team, Iniesta’s 674 appearances for Barcelona is bettered only by Xavi Hernandez, who was also on the pitch before kick-off to join in the tributes.
Real Sociedad welcomed Iniesta with a guard of honour while the crowd formed an impressive mosaic to spell out ‘Infinit Iniesta’ on the two sides of the stadium, with an infinity symbol, doubling up as number eights, at the ends.