MADRID • Two Spanish stalwarts bade farewell to their boyhood clubs on Sunday as Andres Iniesta waved goodbye to Barcelona while Fernando Torres went out with a bang for Atletico Madrid.
Torres scored twice on his final appearance as 10-man Atletico claimed a 2-2 draw against Eibar on the last day of the LaLiga season.
Iniesta's 22-year association with Barca, meanwhile, ended with a victory as the player marked out as the midfielder's successor, Philippe Coutinho, proved the difference in a 1-0 win over Real Sociedad.
The home fans held up a mosaic before the game that read, "Infinite Iniesta" and later revealed a banner saying, "Thanks for so much" in tribute to a player who came through the club's La Masia academy, and spent 16 years pulling the strings in the first team, winning nine LaLiga titles and four Champions Leagues.
A tearful Iniesta walked off to a standing ovation from the Nou Camp in the second half as the crowd belted out his name.
Barca's players gave him a guard of honour while wearing shirts with Iniesta on their backs in a post-match ceremony to commemorate both the 34-year-old's career and the Catalan side's Spanish league and King's Cup double triumph.
"It is a difficult day," Iniesta said in his farewell speech. "But it has been a wonderful 22 years. It has been a privilege and a pleasure to defend and represent this club, for me the best in the world. I will keep you in my heart forever."
His team-mates then huddled beneath Iniesta and tossed him into the air. Iniesta's 674 appearances for Barca is bettered only by club legend Xavi Hernandez, who also joined in the on-pitch tributes.
Photos on social media later showed a barefoot and reflective Iniesta sitting alone on the pitch of a near-empty Nou Camp at around 1am.
Torres' swansong was less emotional, perhaps because his fairy-tale ending had already arrived last Wednesday, when he lifted the Europa League, his first trophy with the club. But his brace added some extra sparkle in front of his own fans, who stayed on after the final whistle to watch Atletico form another guard of honour for him.
On his 404th appearance for Atletico, Torres' goals were his 128th and 129th for the club, coming 17 years after his first, in 2001.
"I thank the whole Atletico family," Torres said afterwards. "It has been an honour and a privilege to wear this shirt more than 400 times. You have made me the happiest person in the world."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS