Iniesta bows out in a Blaze of Glory

Already crowned La Liga champions Barcelona ended their campaign with a 1-0 win at home to Real Sociedad Sunday thanks to a sensational long-range strike from Philippe Coutinho, but captain Andres Iniesta was the centre of attention at an emotionally charged Nou Camp as he played his last game for the club.

Coutinho drifted inside from the left and held off two defenders outside the area before angling the ball in off the far post with a venomous shot to break the deadlock in the 57th minute.

Iniesta was substituted in the 82nd, hugging most of his teammates including substitute Lionel Messi 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.

Special edition Iniesta shirts

Barca’s 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 the club’s academy and spent 16 years pulling the strings in midfield, winning nine Liga titles, four Champions Leagues and six domestic Cups.

With legends Carles Puyol and Xavi Hernandez in the crowd, Iniesta’s name was chanted 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 King’s Cup trophy which they won in April – in a 5-0 rout of Sevilla with Iniesta getting one of the goals.

“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 Barca 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.”

Double winners Barca narrowly missed out on going the entire campaign unbeaten following last weekend’s reverse at Levante, and they herald a new era without the majestic midfielder.

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