FERNANDO TORRES was given an emotional embrace by former Spain teammate Andres Iniesta as he took to the pitch for the final time in his career.
But that was as far as the sentimentality went on his long-awaited swansong.
Torres’s Sagan Tosu side were thrashed 6-1 at home by Kobe in the Japanese J-League as the ex-Liverpool hero played the last game of his 17-year stint as a professional.
Iniesta, who himself arrived in Japan in 2018 after leaving Barcelona, was amongst the scorers for the visitors as two of Spain’s World Cup winners reunited on the pitch for the final time.
Torres had announced his decision to retire from professional football back in June, confirming that he would walk away from an illustrious career when his contract with the J-League side expired.
In a letter published in El Mundo, Iniesta said it was “beautifully strange” that life “brought us all the way to Japan to say goodbye”.
The former Barcelona midfielder added: “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.
“We began away from spotlights and cameras until we came to share thousands of experiences before winning a World Cup for our country.”
GERRARD’S VIDEO TRIBUTE
After the game at a packed Ekimae Real Estate Stadium, Torres received a video tribute from former Anfield team mate Steven Gerrard.
The current Rangers boss said: “Congratulations on an incredible career. I used to love playing with you, sharing the dressing room with you.
“I wish we could go back to those days… knowing you could run behind defenders and I could find you with passes, and you turning all my bad passes into good passes. They’re the days I miss.”
And his former team-mate at Chelsea and now boss of the Londoners Frank Lampard also paid tribute to the 35-year-old.
He said: “We are still in touch. He was in touch when I hung my boots up and I did the same for him, because there’s respect there and he was very good in the dressing room.
“He had some tough times here (at Chelsea) but he had some big moments too, and in his career he had huge moments.
“A huge congratulations on his career and I wish him well in whatever he chooses to do now.”
WENT OUT ON A THRASHING
Torres, who will be an adviser to the Japanese club, thanked the crowd in a speech, and spoke of his admiration for the Sagan Tosu team that avoided relegation from the J-League last year.
He said: “Starting with the president, I could understand the true passion shared by everyone at this club, that there is a dream for the future and a great plan.
“To my team mates, from the moment I first arrived, you welcomed me with open arms. I thank you. “Last year when we were under great pressure (of relegation), you remained positive. I am grateful for your efforts.”
Torres’ final outing looked doomed before it had got going – Kobe were 3-0 up long before half time with Iniesta scoring a penalty and pulling the strings for the relegation-threatened visitors before being withdrawn at the break.
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Torres was joined on the pitch for the final ten minutes by another of Spain’s victorious 2010 World Cup side, the country’s all-time top scorer David Villa who was a late substitute for Kobe.
The 35-year-old, who became the most expensive player in British football history when he joined Chelsea from Liverpool for a stunning £50m fee in 2011, suffered a nosedive in form after leaving the Reds.
His career-defining moment remains the winning goal he scored in the Euro 2008 Final against Germany in Vienna, securing Spain their first major tournament success in 44 years.