First it was Fernando Torres, then Andres Iniesta. The league season in Spain ended yesterday with two Spanish idols bidding farewell to their clubs.
Torres ended his storied career with boyhood club Atletico Madrid by scoring twice in the team’s 2-2 draw against Eibar.
A few hours later, Iniesta capped 16 successful seasons with Barcelona in his team’s 1-0 win over Real Sociedad. Barcelona finished with 93 points, 14 more than Atletico Madrid and 17 more than Real Madrid in third.
It was an intensely emotional ending for the players who were key members of Spain’s golden generation that won two European Championships and a World Cup.
Iniesta received a standing ovation from the Camp Nou crowd after being substituted in the 82nd minute of his 675th match with the Catalan club, in a career that saw him win 32 titles.
Iniesta embraced Lionel Messi and other teammates before saluting the fans and leaving the pitch one last time. The crowd chanted his name through the final minutes as Iniesta watched from the bench, unable to hold back tears.
He cried in the post-match ceremony to celebrate his career and the team’s double of La Liga and Copa del Rey titles. Many of Iniesta’s teammates – all wearing the No 8 jersey with Iniesta’s name – also cried as the playmaker spoke to the crowd.
“It’s a difficult day,” the 34-year-old Iniesta said. “It’s been a pleasure to defend and represent the badge of this club, which to me is the best in the world.”
Before the match, fans held up cards to form the words “Infinit Iniesta.”
Iniesta, who scored Spain’s winner in the 2010 World Cup final, is reportedly set to play in Japan. Philippe Coutinho scored the winner for Barcelona.
Earlier in Madrid, Torres – who netted Spain’s winner in the Euro 2008 final – also cried profusely in a ceremony to honour him at Wanda Metropolitano Stadium.
“I have to thank my grandpa, who gave me the greatest gift anyone can give a kid, which was to make me an Atletico fan,” Torres said. “It was an honour to wear this jersey.”
His final two goals came a few days after he lifted his first major trophy with Atletico in the Europa League.
Torres reached 129 goals in 404 appearances with Atletico, who had already secured second place.
This was Torres’ second stint with Atletico after thriving with the club during 2001-07. He then played for Liverpool and Chelsea, where he won the Champions League and Europa League. He returned to Atletico in 2015 after a brief stint with AC Milan.
Fourth-placed Valencia ended their impressive season with a 2-1 win over Clarence Seedorf’s Deportivo La Coruna, who were relegated.
Niko Kovac left Eintracht Frankfurt the perfect parting gift with victory against his future employers Bayern Munich in the domestic cup final.
Kovac delivered the cup, and with it European football next season, in his final game in charge before replacing Jupp Heynckes as Bayern manager this off-season as Frankfurt won 3-1 in Berlin.
Ante Rebic scored either side of Robert Lewandowski’s equaliser, with his second goal after 82 minutes surviving a VAR check by the referee after Bayern appealed for a hand ball in the build-up.
That was not the end of the drama in the replay, however, as Frankfurt survived another review in injury time when the referee decided that Kevin-Prince Boateng’s kick on Javi Martínez was not worthy of a penalty.
With Bayern still seething and their goalkeeper Sven Ulreich up for a corner, Frankfurt broke and substitute Mijat Gacinovic raced clear of two opponents to roll the ball into the empty net and spark celebrations with his team-mates and supporters.
While it was the perfect send-off for Kovac, it denied Heynckes a Bundesliga and cup double on his farewell, as Frankfurt claimed their first title for 30 years following defeat in the final 12 months ago.
Inter Milan are back in the Champions League. The Nerazzurri trailed 2-1 13 minutes from time but fought back to beat 10-man Lazio 3-2 and secure a spot in Europe’s premier club competition for the first time since 2012, following Matias Vecino’s late header.
Inter moved fourth with the same number of points as Lazio but with a better head-to-head record. Champion Juventus, Napoli and Roma are the other Italian teams to qualify for the Champions League.
This was the first year Italy had four spots in the Champions League and the final berth came down to the last match of the season, with Lazio leading Inter by three points.
There was no great escape for Crotone this year as they lost 2-1 at Napoli to drop to Serie B. Crotone avoided relegation last year on the final day with victory at Lazio after picking up 20 out of 27 points.
Napoli, who finished second to Juventus, became the first Serie A side to reach 90 points and still not win the title. Their total of 91 was also a club points record.
In the end, Crotone’s result did not matter as other relegation-threatened clubs all won. Spal, who were level on points with Crotone, beat 10-man Sampdoria 3-1 and Cagliari earned a 1-0 win over Atalanta, who missed a late penalty.