It was the end of an era at Camp Nou on Sunday night, as Andres Iniesta relinquished the captain’s armband to Lionel Messi for the last time. The 1-0 win over Real Sociedad was more of an afterthought, as the main focus of the night was firmly fixed on Iniesta and the legacy he leaves behind as he departs the Blaugrana side.
Considering there wasn’t much to play for, the match was relatively close with opportunities at both ends. The first real chance came in the seventh minute from Januzaj, but Ter Stegen’s hand reached the bouncing shot to push it wide. Later in the first half, Barcelona could have gone ahead with good chances from Iniesta and Rakitic.
Ultimately, the only goal of the match came in the 55th minute with Philippe Coutinho’s lovely curling right-footed shot going in off the post.
Iniesta was unsurprisingly the star of the show and the crowd formed a unique send-off message “Infinit Iniesta” at the start of the match. After the win, the Spaniard could be seen with tears in his eyes and was thrown into the air by his Barça teammates.
In his post-match address, Iniesta said,
“I will move on and carry you all in my heart forever,
“It’s been a wonderful 22 years, full of pride, and it’s been a pleasure to represent this club.
“I thank you for all the love and respect that you’ve given me since I arrived as a child, I now leave as a man.”
Barcelona finishes this La Liga campaign with a comfortable win, 14 points ahead of their nearest rivals Atletico Madrid. Real Sociedad finish in 11th place with 49 points from the season.
As Iniesta hangs up his jersey, there is a sense of slight unease in Barcelona. Many of the greats are leaving in recent years and the younger players do not yet seem to be creating enough of an impact. Iniesta is leaving at 34, while Piqué and Suárez are 31, and Messi 30, so in the next couple of years, these key players also need to be phased out, with replacements found.
Of the new additions to bolster the squad this year, arguably Coutinho has adapted the best to the style of play at Barcelona, with players like Dembélé and Yerry Mina yet to create a real impact on the team. It will be an important summer ahead, to see if the Blaugrana can add more talent to their ranks, perhaps with players such as Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann. Only time will tell, but this definitely feels like the end of an era at Camp Nou.
FC Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Semedo, Piqué, Yerry Mina, Jordi Alba; Rakitic, Busquets, Iniesta (Alcácer); Dembélé (D. Suárez), Suárez, Coutinho (Messi).
Real Sociedad: Moyá; Elustondo (Odriozola), Llorente, R. Navas, De la Bella; Illarremendi, Zurutuza (X. Prieto); Januzaj (Canales), Juanmi, Oyarzabal; Willian José