Spanish striker Fernando Torres has drawn the curtain on his career after playing his final game for Japanese side Sagan Tosu.
The 35-year old World Cup winner also featured for Atletico Madrid, Liverpool and Chelsea in a long and hugely successful career.
His final professional football match ended in a 6-1 defeat to a Vissel Kobe side featuring former international teammates Andres Iniesta and David Villa.
Iniesta paid tribute to Torres in an emotional open letter in which he said: “it’s been a wonderful journey, it has taken us to every corner of the world”.
Torres played 110 times for Spain and won the World Cup in 2010, as well as the European Championships in 2008 and 2012, scoring in both finals.
He had planned his retirement in June to coincide with the match against Vissel Kobe.
“To say goodbye to football next to my dear friend Iniesta is something I could never imagine,” Torres said at the time.
“Also my friend David Villa, with who I share probably the best moments in Spanish football history.
“I tried to find an iconic moment to play my final game and I think that is perfect timing.”
Iniesta and Torres have been friends since they played together for Spain’s youth teams, with Torres penning a prescient message on a shirt for Iniesta that someday they would “win the World Cup together”.
Writing in the Spanish newspaper El Mundo, Iniesta said it was “beautifully strange” that life “brought us all the way to Japan to say goodbye”.
“Football brought us together more than 20 years ago, when we were children. Well, you will always be El Nino. And it will never separate us,” added the former Barcelona midfielder.
“We began away from spotlights and cameras until we came to share thousands of experiences before winning a World Cup for our country.
“When we meet in Spain, I’ll show you that shirt, that treasure that nobody else discovered. Although, it is true, there is no greater treasure than your friendship, Fernando.”
Torres started his career with Atletico, before a £20m move to Liverpool in 2007, where he scored 81 goals in 142 games.
In 2011, he was signed by Chelsea for a then British record transfer fee of £50m.
Although he failed to replicate his goalscoring form at Stamford Bridge, he was part of the Blues’ Champions League-winning team in 2012.
He also won the FA Cup and scored in their 2-1 win against Benfica in the Europa League final in 2013.
After 45 goals in 172 games at Chelsea and a brief four-month loan spell at AC Milan, he returned to Atletico in late 2014.
He finished on the losing side as Atletico lost the 2016 Champions League final to Real Madrid, but won a second Europa League in 2018 – his final appearance before moving to Japan.
Torres, who is Spain’s third-highest goalscorer with 38, played in six major tournaments including the 2010 World Cup triumph.
“During his career he became a legend by his own merits, and left an unforgettable mark both in the field and in the hearts of everyone he worked with,” said Atletico.
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