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.”
Fernando Torres is calling it a career.
The Spanish striker, 35, says he’ll announce the details Saturday, midway through Sagan Tosu’s season in Japan. The side sits dead last on the table.
It’s unclear whether he’ll finish the season with J-League club, where he has four goals and two assists in 32 games.
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A centurion with Spain, Torres played in three EUROs and three World Cups. He won two of the former to go with the 2010 World Cup triumph in South Africa, and finished his international career with 38 goals in 110 caps.
Torres scored double-digit goals four times with Atletico Madrid before earning a move to Liverpool, where he bagged 24 goals in his first Premier League season and finished third in the 2008 Ballon d’Or voting.
His production dipped massively during his fourth season in England, spent between Liverpool and Chelsea, but he notched 22 goals in all European competitions during the Blues’ tumultuous run out of the Champions League and onto the Europa League winners’ stage.
Torres was twice a member of the FIFPro World XI, and won the UCL and Europa League with Chelsea before claiming the UEL again with Atletico Madrid in 2015-16.
His return to Atletico Madrid had moments to be sure, including an 11-goal La Liga campaign in 2015-16. He also spent half a season on loan to AC Milan, where he scored once in 10 Serie A contests.
Here’s an interesting question: In which shirt will you always remember Torres? Is it the red of Spain, Liverpool, or Atletico Madrid? Or does his time of tumult in Chelsea jump to the front of the fray?
TOSU, Japan (AP) Former Liverpool, Chelsea and Spain striker Fernando Torres signed to play for Sagan Tosu in the J1 League on Tuesday, dashing the hopes of Australian football that he might become a marquee attraction for its struggling A-League.
The 34-year-old Torres held discussions with Football Federation Australia and officials of A-League glamor club Sydney FC, raising hopes he might add some star power to the A-League which has seen flagging attendances and TV ratings. Torres was also rumored to be joining the Chicago Fire, coached by former Atletico Madrid player Veljko Paunovic.
But the former Liverpool, Chelsea, and Atletico Madrid forward announced he will be joining former Spain teammate Andres Iniesta in Japan.
Torres was one of six players on a shortlist of possible marquee stars drawn up by the FFA two months ago, which also included Iniesta and Japan’s Keisuke Honda.
The A-League has a centralized $3 million fund to attract marquee players but hasn’t had a truly big name since Italy’s Alessandro Del Piero played for Sydney FC from 2012-14.
For all the talk — some of it authored by yours truly — about the romance of Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger saying goodbye to the club in a French-hosted UEFA Europa League Final against French opposition, UEL semifinal opponents Atletico Madrid have an alluring argument of their own.
Atleti hosts Arsenal after a 1-1 first leg, bringing an away goal home in its bid to reach the May 16 final in Lyon.
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Fernando Torres is going to leave Atleti this summer, perhaps for the Chicago Fire, but admits he wishes he could play there forever.
Torres, 34, even says his first move away from the club, to Liverpool, was for the benefit of Atleti.
“I always will want what’s best for the team and always put Atletico Madrid before me,” he said in an interview with beIN LaLiga. “Twice,I have given up what I want most, which is to play here. I understand that it is good for the club, and I would do it a third and a fourth time.”
Torres went 90 minutes in Atleti’s 1-0 win over Alaves at the weekend, with regular strikers Kevin Gameiro, who scored off the bench, and Antoine Griezmann kept out of the Starting XI. Diego Simeone also rested Saul Niguez, Jan Oblak, and Jose Gimenez.
Arsenal will be also fresh after using a much-changed side against Manchester United this weekend.
Manager Arsene Wenger was quizzed about his intentions for the future, including a possible job in Spain. He didn’t bite.
“I believe a man has to give his best as long as he is somewhere, with all his commitment and energy. I would like one day to know I worked with all my energy until the last day. I would like to look back and think I finished this love affair well.”
Wenger also complimented Griezmann, his fellow Frenchman, praising him for trying to succeed outside of his home country.
“He is a player I rate. He moved out of France at a young age, he made it away from home. He has an exceptional career and he looks like he loves the game, which I like in a player that is talented.”
The other side of the draw has Marseille in Austria holding a 2-0 lead on Red Bull Salzburg.
Both matches kickoff at 3:05 p.m. ET.
At a time where Major League Soccer has growingly become more and more youthful, a veteran presence could be gracing the league very soon.
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Recently, Zlatan Ibrahimovic completed his long (very long) awaited move to the LA Galaxy, but now another veteran striker could be calling MLS his home once his contract in Spain expires at the end of the 2017/18 season.
Fernando Torres has been on the radar of several MLS sides, and the former Spanish international is reportedly keen on a move to the U.S. instead of one to the China Super League.
The Montreal Impact, Chicago Fire, Seattle Sounders, New York City FC and Sporting Kansas City have each been linked with “El Nino” since word came out that Torres’ time at Atletico Madrid would end in 2018.
The Fire are believed to hold the Discovery Rights to Torres if he does in fact decide to join MLS at some point.
This season, Torres’ role at Atleti has been reduced significantly with the likes of Antoine Griezmann and Diego Costa up front, however, the former World Cup winner has still scored eight goals in 36 appearances for the club.