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.”
David Villa’s memorable stint at New York City FC has come to its conclusion, though reports say he has no plans to hang up his boots just yet.
Villa leaves the MLS side having scored 80 goals and added 21 assists, and does not leave with a whimper; The 36-year-old striker scored 14 goals in 23 regular season appearances in 2018, adding a goal in three playoff games.
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Villa made 126 appearances for NYCFC, the second-most with a club in his career (Valencia, 219). He was the 2016 MLS MVP and a four-time All Star, using his time at NYCFC to earn a recall to the Spanish national team in 2017.
He thanked everyone at NYCFC from top-to-bottom. From NYCFC.com:
“Thank you to the people in the offices, the people working with the team and the coaches and staff. Thank you to my teammates – without them it would have been impossible to be successful. Thank you to the people working in the media that always gave me the respect and the love.
“My experience here was amazing. It gave me everything as a soccer player, as a person, and as a family man. I’ll always remember this experience with love. My heart is here and I’m an NYCFC supporter forever.”
Single-elimination games on the tiny pitch at Yankee Stadium is a difficult way to conclude a season, and the Philadelphia Union will be bitter about the end to its campaign following a 3-1 loss to New York City FC in the first round of the MLS Cup Playoffs.
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The stars were out for the East’s No. 3 seed as Ismael Tajouri-Shradi, David Villa, and Maxi Moralez all scored for NYCFC, who will meet No. 2 seed Atlanta United in the conference semifinals.
Cory Burke scored for Philadelphia who lost in the same building by the same score for the second time in four days.
Tajouri-Shradi’s goal was the pick of the bunch, hit with vigor to open the scoring.
New York City FC’s Third Rail is going to come up with some terrific chants after their nine-men side held the New York Red Bulls to a 1-1 draw in the Hudson River Derby on Wednesday at Yankee Stadium.
Bradley Wright-Phillips put the Red Bulls in front, and NYCFC went down to 10 men within minutes of the opener. They’d be down to nine by the end of the game when Ebenezer Okori joined debutant Eloi Amagat in being sent off the pitch by referee Ted Unkel.
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“I don’t want to talk any rubbish,” Wright-Phillips said on FS1 after the game. “Credit to New York City. It’s embarrassing. They’re down to nine men and we created nothing.”
Making his NYCFC debut, longtime Girona midfielder Amagat was sent off for a studs-up challenge on Marc Rzatkowski.
David Villa leveled the score line at 1, but looked in big trouble when Ebenezer Okori was show a 74th minute red card for a clumsy challenge on Wright-Phillips.
According to a report by Spanish outlet AS, NYCFC is not planning to renew David Villa’s contract at the end of this season.
Villa has become one of the most decorated Designated Players in Major League Soccer history since arriving in 2014, scoring 74 goals over the course of his NYCFC career. Villa won the 2016 MLS MVP and finished one goal behind Golden Boot winner Bradley Wright-Phillips in the scoring rankings that season. He then came up two goals short of the 2017 Golden Boot order behind Nemanja Nikolic.
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The report states that, at 36 years old, Villa could potentially contemplate retirement at the end of the season, having already hung up his international boots four years ago just two caps shy of the 100 mark. According to the report, NYCFC could potentially offer him a front office role, either as a coach or executive.
Villa has missed some time this season due to injury, with knee problems sidelining him for three matches early in the campaign and a knee injury troubling him of late, but he played 71 minutes last weekend against Toronto and scored the opening goal, and is apparently good to go this weekend against Philadelphia. Despite the injuries, Villa is still second on NYCFC in scoring with nine goals, one behind Ismael Tajouri-Shradi for the team lead.
The Spaniard’s career has seen him win titles at the highest level, with a Euro 2008 victory, a World Cup title in 2010, a Champions League victory in 2010/11 with Barcelona, and La Liga championships with both Atletico Madrid and Barcelona.