Barca bid emotional farewell to favourite son Iniesta

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Barcelona: Legendary playmaker Andres Iniesta bade farewell to Barcelona as his final game as a Blaugrana ended in victory on an emotional evening at the Nou Camp.

Newly crowned La Liga champions Barca whose pursuit of an unbeaten La Liga season was spoiled in a 5-4 loss at Levante last week, bounced back and defeated Real Sociedad 1-0 in the final game of the season.

Philippe Coutinho, the only exception in the miserable loss to Levante scored a thunderbolt goal in the 57th minute to continue his hat-trick form for Ernesto Valverde’s team but the evening obviously belonged to the departing captain Iniesta.

The veteran playmaker received a blissful reception and standing ovation when he was substituted in the last 10 minutes of his 675th match for the Catalans which was followed by a grand ceremony to mark the farewell of a most successful player in the history of the Catalonian club.

It was emotional even before the kick-off as a fabulous mosaic saying ‘Infinit Iniesta’ greeted Andrés as the teams came onto the pitch. The captain and Xabi Prieto, the departing Real Sociedad playmaker and the contemporary of Iniesta, then shared a touching moment as the two one-club players said goodbye to their respective teams on the same night.

The 34-year old Iniesta is leaving the club where he spent a phenomenal 22 years after joining their academy, having won 32 major honours including four Champions League titles and nine La Liga titles. Iniesta embraced Lionel Messi with whom he shared all his glory over the years and other teammates before saluting the fans and leaving the pitch one last time.

After the full-time whistle the stadium went dark before a light show during which the Barca players emerged wearing the shirts of their captain to give him a guard of honour.

The nervous Iniesta himself then stepped out to raise first the La Liga then the Copa del Rey trophies before addressing the crowd. He cried profusely while having his final moments at Nou Camp as were several of his teammates who could not hold the tears.

“This is a difficult day but I have spent 22 marvelous years here,” he said. “It’s been a pride and a pleasure to defend and represent this badge, which for me is the best in the world.

“Thanks to all my team-mates, each and every one. I will miss you all so much. And thank you to the fans, for all your love, everything you’ve made me feel since I arrived here as a boy. I leave as a man. I will keep you in my heart forever.”

The Spanish midfield general who won two Euro Cups and the scorer of the winner in 2010 World Cup with Spain is reportedly going to play in Japan after bringing an end to his illustrious career in Barcelona.