Emotional sendoffs for Spain duo
Barcelona captain Andres Iniesta lifted a ninth Liga title after his side beat Real Sociedad 1-0 on Sunday in an emotional final game for the midfielder at the Nou Camp while Fernando Torres scored twice in his final game for Atletico Madrid.
Philippe Coutinho struck the only goal in the champion’s final game of the season in the 57th minute as it finished the campaign on 93 points, while Torres struck both of Atletico’s goals in its 2-2 draw at home to Eibar.
Coutinho drifted inside from the left and held off two defenders outside the area before rattling the ball in off the far post with a venomous shot.
The league’s top scorer Lionel Messi started the game on the bench but replaced Coutinho in the 67th. Iniesta was substituted in the 82nd, hugging most of his teammates as well as some Real Sociedad players and the referee as he left the Nou Camp pitch for the last time as a Barca player.
Barca fans held up a mosaic before the game reading “Infinite Iniesta”.
They later revealed a banner saying “Thanks for so much” in tribute to a player who came through their academy 22 years ago and spent 16 seasons pulling the strings in midfield, winning nine Liga titles, four UEFA Champions Leagues and six domestic Cups.
They continued to sing Iniesta’s name long after he had gone off the pitch. The captain returned with his teammates after the final whistle to lift the club’s 25th Liga title and also show off the Copa del Rey trophy which they won in April, beating Sevilla 5-0 in the final.
“Today is a difficult day. I have spent 22 marvellous years here and I’ve been so proud to defend and represent this badge, which for me is the best in the world,” Iniesta said, addressing the fans from the pitch. “Thanks to all our fans, for the support you’ve shown and the respect you have given me. I came here as a boy and I leave aged 34 as a man. I’ll always carry you in my heart.”
Barcelona ends the season on 93 points, 14 more than second-placed Atletico and 17 above last year’s champion Real Madrid. Ernesto Valverde’s side lost only one Liga match, last week’s 4-5 defeat at Levante.
Atletico was given a guard of honor by Eibar’s players before kickoff after beating Olympique de Marseille 3-0 in Wednesday’s Europa League final, which was Torres’s first trophy with the club where he has spent the majority of his career.
Torres, who wore the captain’s armband in his final game, tapped into an empty net in the 42nd minute to cancel out Kike Garcia’s opener. The Spaniard then gave Atletico the lead on the hour mark, scoring his 129th goal for the club.
“I have had the privilege to wear this shirt in over 400 games and it’s very tough to know that this is the final time,” said an emotional Torres, who made his debut for Atletico aged 17 in the 2000/01 season, leaving for Liverpool in 2007 but returning in 2015 after also playing for Chelsea and AC Milan.