Andres Iniesta is set to end his trophy-laden spell at Barcelona this summer and it was an emotional occasion for the midfielder on Saturday night as he helped his side to overcome Sevilla with a 5-0 victory to win the Copa del Rey.
Iniesta, who seems likely to head to China, was amongst the scorers at Wanda Metropolitano, with Luis Suarez hitting a brace, while Lionel Messi and Philippe Coutinho were also on the scoresheet.
In the closing stages of the game Iniesta was substituted to much applause and he was overcome with emotion as he was seen crying on the bench during what is likely to be his final Copa del Rey success with the club.
As a measure of the high esteem in which Iniesta is held throughout Spanish and indeed world football, Sevilla supporters joined the Barcelona fans in applauding the 33-year-old
It is commonplace for two captains to lift the Copa del Rey but on this occasion Messi allowed Iniesta to lift the trophy on his own.
After progressing through the club’s youth system, Iniesta has spent his entire career to date at Barcelona, making over 600 appearances, winning a wide array of trophies and producing some outstanding performances.
The Spaniard has the opportunity for further glory before leaving Barcelona, with Ernesto Valverde’s team top of La Liga and on track to win the title.
The Spanish newspapers were, inevitably, full of tributes to Iniesta.
‘Iniesta, don’t go!’ begged Madrid daily AS on their front page on Sunday, while Marca described Iniesta as ‘the last emperor,’ a reference to his potential departure to East Asia.
‘How beautiful it is to watch Iniesta play,’ wrote AS editor Alfredo Relano. ‘Inesta took the cup from the king’s hands, lifted it up and we all asked ourselves why he is leaving.’
‘Long live the king,’ ran Diario Sport’s front page. ‘The game became a homage to Iniesta, who had his dream goodbye.’
This season Iniesta has often been taken off towards the end of games to preserve his fitness but he has continued to produce some impressive displays.
Given the extremely strong connection he has with the club, it will certainly be very difficult for Iniesta to leave Barcelona, but, fittingly, he seems set to go out on a high.
ANDRES INIESTA’S TROPHIES AT BARCELONA
La Liga: 2004/05, 2005/06, 2008/09, 2009/10, 2010/11, 2012/13, 2014/15, 2015/16
Copa del Rey: 2008/09, 2011/12, 2014/15, 2015/16, 2016/17, 2017/18
Champions League: 2005/06, 2008/09, 2010/11, 2014/15
Supercopa de Espana: 2005, 2006, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2016
UEFA Super Cup: 2009, 2011, 2015
FIFA Club World Cup: 2009, 2011, 2015