FC Barcelona bid their official farewell to long-time captain Andres Iniesta with an event at Camp Nou that highlighted the legendary midfielder's role in the team's tremendous success over the past decade.
Iniesta, 34, joined the Barcelona organisation as a 12-year-old, playing in the youth divisions and the B team before being promoted to the main squad in 2002, reports Efe news agency.
The entire team and coaching staff, current and former club executives, Iniesta's family, ex-teammates Samuel Eto'o and Xavi Hernandez, and world-class athletes from other sports such as NBA stars Pau and Marc Gasol were among the roughly 300 invited guests on Friday.
Journalist Jordi Evole played the role of master of ceremonies, introducing Sergio Busquets, Xavi, Eto'o, Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba and others who took the microphone to share anecdotes from a podium crowded with trophies representing the 32 titles Iniesta has won with Barcelona, including the 2017-2018 La Liga and Copa del Rey.
"These final hours are not passing easily. It's difficult to accept it and to think that the moment is coming to leave the club. I'm trying to enjoy it to the max, especially on Sunday when I will say goodbye to what has been my home," Iniesta said two days ahead of his final match with Barça.
The tribute began with the screening of a video about Iniesta's career featuring commentary by former Barcelona stars Pau Gasol, Iker Casillas, Pep Guardiola, Luis Enrique Martinez, Marc Marquez and Franck Ribery, among many others.
"I am left with the pride I feel for having grown as a person and player in this club, for me it's the best in the world," a choked-up Iniesta said to a standing ovation.
Sunday's match at the Camp Nou against Real Sociedad will be Iniesta's chance to say his goodbyes to Barcelona supporters.