Departing legend belongs to us all tears, applause and another moment of quiet awe marked a fitting cup final farewell
There were two minutes to go in the final, his final, when Andrs Iniesta began the long walk goodbye.
Slowly, swallowing hard, eyes red, he made his way across the pitch, team-mates coming to embrace him as he went, and all around the Metropolitano supporters got to their feet, applauding. They stood in the Barcelona end and they stood in the Sevilla end too. Iniestas name rolled around, accompanying him until he ducked out of sight, taking a seat on the bench. He sat there for a little while, tears forcing their way through, and then he got up again and went to collect the Copa del Rey, alone.
It was the 34th title of his career and a 35th will follow, but it was this one that felt like it marked the end: the last waltz. As he climbed up to collect the trophy, down on the grass Barcelonas players waited for him, much as they had waited for him when, 51 minutes into his 670th game for Barcelona, he scored the fourth goal, ensuring that this would always be his night: the Iniesta Final.
Collecting Lionel Messis pass, with a gentle shift of the hips, just a hint of a pause, he stepped past David Soria and rolled the ball in. He jumped into the air and at some point in that leap, sadness crept into the celebration, nostalgia flooding the stadium. They knew what this meant.
Any doubt disappeared when they saw the Barcelonas players reaction, more eloquent than anything they could have said. There were a lot of emotions in that goal, Iniesta admitted afterwards. Lots of emotions, lots of feelings, lots of years. I really wanted this final to go well and Im happy. The normal huddle broke up and then, almost one by one, they waited for Iniesta, a moment each. Eyes closed, Messi held him in an embrace that may become the image of the final, maybe even a generation; he held on just that little bit longer, like he didnt want to let go.
There was something in that. In good times and bad Messi looks for Iniesta, and in bad times above all. It is in those moments when he seeks security, assurance, that he most wants the Spaniard at his side. I know how difficult it is to do what he does, Messi says in Iniestas book, The Artist.
On the pitch I like him to be near me, especially when the game takes a turn for the worse, when things are difficult. Thats when I say to him: come closer. He takes control and responsibility.
Read more here: http://www.theguardian.com/us