Fernando Torres made the final appearance of his 18-year career as a professional footballer on Friday, as his Sagan Tosu side suffered a 6-1 defeat at the hands of Vissel Kobe, led by friends and international teammates Andres Iniesta and David Villa.
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Torres, 35, starred for a handful of Europe’s biggest clubs — Atletico Madrid, Liverpool, Chelsea and AC Milan — and was a key figure during the Spanish national team’s run of winning back-to-back European Championships (2008 and 2012) either side of the 2010 World Cup. His 110 international caps rank ninth all-time for Spain, while his 38 goals put him third behind only Villa (59) and Raul (44).
Ahead of Torres’ farewell, Iniesta spoke glowingly of his dear friend in an open letter published in El Mundo:
“Football brought us together more than 20 years ago, when we were children. Well, you will always be El Niño. And it will never separate us.
“We began away from spotlights and cameras until we came to share thousands of experiences before winning a World Cup for our country.
“When we meet in Spain, I’ll show you that shirt, that treasure that nobody else discovered. Although, it is true, there is no greater treasure than your friendship, Fernando.”
Torres announced in June that he would play his final game on Friday, given the opportunity to say goodbye after sharing the field with Iniesta and Villa one last time.
“To say goodbye to football next to my dear friend Iniesta is something I could never imagine. Also my friend David Villa, with whom I share probably the best moments in Spanish football history.
“I tried to find an iconic moment to play my final game and I think that is perfect timing.”
Andres Iniesta has been heavily criticized for a photo he posted online with individuals in blackface.
Iniesta, 34, took part in the Epiphany celebrations, part of Spain’s Three Kings Day, and two of the men shown in the photo have been painted black.
Balthazar, one of the kings who visits Jesus, is usually played by a white man in blackface in Spain. Three Kings Day (January 6) is a very important Christian holiday in Spain, as the visit to baby Jesus of magi Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar is celebrated.
Iniesta has left the photo up on his social media account and has not responded to being heavily criticized.
The current Vissel Kobe midfielder, who joined the Japanese side from Barcelona earlier this year, is the most decorated Spanish player in history with 33 trophies won with Barca and the Spanish national team.
Below is the photo at the center of the uproar.
Andres Iniesta’s departure from long-time club Barcelona is still taking some getting used to for those in Spain, however, the former Catalan midfielder seems to be adjusting just fine in his new life in Japan.
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Iniesta made his debut for J-League side Vissel Kobe last week, which fittingly resulted with a victory and a goal of epic proportions from the Spain international.
His second time out on the pitch resulted in a similar outcome; with a goal that brought the Vissel Kobe supporters to their feet (watch below).
And now we take a quick trip to Japan, where Andres Iniesta is developing his wine business and OH… MY… GOODNESS.
The Barcelona legend, 34, scored a wonderful goal off a silky turn for his new club Vissel Kobe on Saturday.
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Iniesta starts the play at midfield and then runs 50 yards seemingly unnoticed to get on the end of a terrific ball.
He then turns it with barely a touch, spinning to work his way into a familiar scoring position.
Are you sitting down? Because this is a shocker.
Okay, not so much (It’s difficult to convey sarcasm this early in a post).
Lionel Messi has taken the arm band from Andres Iniesta as Barcelona captain, the legendary playmaker who’s moved onto Japan’s Vissel Kobe. Xavi and Carles Puyol were the previous captains.
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Second captain since 2015, the announcement comes as a foregone conclusion.
Messi is joined by Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets, and Sergi Roberto in the captainship. Pique and Busquets were in the quartet with Messi, while Roberto is taking the place of Javier Mascherano.
Barcelona pointed out that this is the first time since 2014-15 that all four captains come from La Masia, Barca’s celebrated academy.