Joaquín makes history as he bids farewell: He becomes the player with the most LaLiga Santander appearances

Joaquín Sánchez has retired. He has done so after playing his 622nd match in LaLiga Santander, meaning he has equalled Andoni Zubizarreta’s record as the player with the most appearances in the history of Spanish football’s top flight. After 23 seasons as a professional and with almost 1,000 games under his belt between his stints with Real Betis, Valencia CF, Málaga CF, Fiorentina and the Spanish national team, we’ll no longer see Joaquín running down the wing, crossing into the box or scoring goals. One of the great legends of Spanish football has said goodbye.

In the 60th minute of his final LaLiga Santander match, against Valencia CF, one of his former clubs, Joaquín crossed the touchline never to return. Before he exited, he hugged his teammates, placed the captain’s armband on Sergio Canales’ arm, teared up, kissed the Estadio Benito Villamarín turf and walked off to a standing ovation from the Béticos, the fans who watched him grow up and who will never forget him.

Joaquín arrived at Real Betis at the age of 16 and made his debut with the first team on September 3rd 2000, against Compostela at LaLiga SmartBank level. Los Verdiblancos won promotion that season and his first spell in LaLiga Santander was so impressive that he was called up to play for the Spanish national team at the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea. He was the hottest prospect of Spanish football, one of the best dribblers in Europe and an idol at the Estadio Benito Villamarín, where he played until the 2005/06 season, winning a Copa del Rey along the way.

He then left for Valencia CF, dazzling there too during five seasons that saw him lift another Copa del Rey. Ahead of the 2011/12 campaign, he signed for Málaga CF and was a key member of the side that made history in Spanish and European football, finishing fourth in his first season there and coming so close to the semi-finals of the European Cup in his second year. Then came two campaigns at Fiorentina, his only adventure abroad, before he returned at the age of 34 to Real Betis. Many assumed he was nearing the end of his career, but he played for the club for another eight seasons, competing at the top level and winning the third Copa del Rey of his career.

Joaquín’s emotional farewell

On the verge of turning 42, Joaquín leaves Real Betis and football having left his mark thanks to his performances and also his personality. “It all went better than I ever expected, a dream come true,” he said following his 622nd LaLiga Santander appearance, speaking with tears in his eyes. “I was at home and surrounded by my people, my family, the Béticos. I couldn’t have asked for more.”

He continued: “I am who I am thanks to Real Betis. Today I have felt many emotions and memories. What I’ll remember is the affection and admiration the Real Betis fans showed and the way I was able to enjoy this so much. I’ll now be by their side as yet another Bético, defending the feeling we share.” Joaquín then completed a lap of honour around the touchline of the Estadio Benito Villamarín, the stadium that saw him become “the footballer with the feint and the sprint” and a true legend.

Media Desk

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *