‘Last Emperor’ Iniesta hailed after stunning Copa del Rey showing
Playmaker shines in demolition of Sevilla as attention turns to his future
An emotional Andres Iniesta walks off the pitch after being substituted in Barcelona’s Copa del Rey final win over Sevilla at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium in Madrid. Photograph: Juan Medina/Reuters
Barcelona 5 Sevilla 0
Spanish media paid tribute to Barcelona captain Andres Iniesta after he starred in his side’s 5-0 thrashing of Sevilla in the Copa del Rey final at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium in Madrid on Saturday night.
Iniesta scored and pulled the strings for Barcelona in a dominant display as they won the tournament for the fourth season running and a record 30th time.
The playmaker confirmed he will make a decision on his future this week and Spanish reports say he will move to a Chinese Super League side.
“Iniesta, don’t go!” begged Madrid daily AS on their front page on Sunday, while Marca described Iniesta as “the last emperor,” a reference to his potential departure to East Asia.
“How beautiful it is to watch Iniesta play,” wrote AS editor Alfredo Relano. “Inesta took the cup from the king’s hands, lifted it up and we all asked ourselves why he is leaving.”
Iniesta, who left the pitch in tears when he was substituted in the 88th minute, was cheered by both sets of fans, who chanted his name.
Iniesta’s 2010 World Cup triumph with Spain made him loved across the country and with Barcelona he has won six Copa del Rey medals, four Champions League trophies and eight La Liga titles, which will become nine if his side earn three more points from their last five games in Spain’s top flight.
The Barcelona media were just as effusive in their praise for the 33-year-old, who joined the Blaugrana as an 12-year-old and has played at the Nou Camp for his entire career.
“Long live the king,” ran Diario Sport’s front page. “The game became a homage to Iniesta, who had his dream goodbye.”
Further tributes to Iniesta poured in from his team-mates and coach Ernesto Valverde after the game.
“When I was a player I’d have given my arm for some of the touches he can do,” said Valverde. “Let’s see what happens, Andres is the one who must make the decision [over his future] and communicate it.”
Meanwhile, Barcelona president Josep Bartomeu hinted there was a chance the veteran could stay.
“I know he has offers but Barca is the team of his life, he arrived at 12 years old, he’s given everything and has an indefinite contract,” said Bartomeu.