Andre Iniesta will go head to head with his former Spain team-mate in the last game of his career with old strike partner David Villa also in opposition.
Andres Iniesta has penned an emotional farewell message to long-term international team-mate Fernando Torres, who is playing the final match of his professional career on Friday.
The 35-year-old, now at Japanese side Sagan Tosu, will come up against a Vissel Kobe team featuring Iniesta and old strike partner David Villa in the final game of an 18-year career which has seen him lift the World Cup, European Championship, Champions League and Europa League.
With only two months between their birthdays, Torres and Iniesta had played together for Spain since youth level, and it was the former who found Cesc Fabregas to play with Iniesta for the winning goal in the 2010 World Cup final.
In a letter published in El Mundo, Iniesta wrote:
» “It’s very strange, I’d say beautifully strange. Here we both are, about to play your last game as a professional.
» “I still have some left. Here we are, on the other side of the world. It’s as if life, funny as she is, had brought us all the way to Japan to say goodbye.
» “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 met when we had utopian dreams. That goal you scored us at the U16 European Championship with the national team in England.
» “I’ll never forget the gesture you made to dedicate that goal to me. I saw it on TV because I had to go home with an injury.”
After making his professional debut for Atletico Madrid in 2001, Torres went on to represent Liverpool, Chelsea, AC Milan and Sagan Tosu, as well as making more than 100 appearances for Spain.
With more than 250 club career goals to his name, he will be hoping to sign off in style in what is a significant match in the J-League season. Sagan Tosu sit 16th, in the relegation play-off position, with Vissel Kobe just one place and two points above them.
Ahead of the match, Iniesta also recalled a gesture made by Torres when the pair were young: the striker wrote “Someday, you and I will win the World Cup together” on a Spain shirt after flopping at the Under-17 World Cup in Trinidad and Tobago.
The midfielder later continued:
» “We began away from spotlights and cameras until we came to share thousands of experiences before winning a World Cup for our country.
» “When we meet in Spain, I’ll show you that shirt, that treasure that nobody else discovered. Although, it is true, there is no greater treasure than your friendship, Fernando.