It’s been a wonderful journey
How strange. Don’t say no to me, Fernando. 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, whimsical 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 Niño. 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.
Remember, Fernando, that jersey signed in Trinidad and Tobago with a promise that seemed unachievable. But we did it. And since then, always together. Vienna, Johannesburg… That unforgettable pass from Xavi for you that you credit to the master, Luis (Aragones). That centre of yours for all of us to score the most important goal of our lives. Separated, but always together. And until the last moment, above shirts or clubs. We lived in different cities. You in Madrid and me in Barcelona. But we were never enemies. Just friends who wore a different shirt, fused, yes, always in a red skin. Or Rojita, whatever we want to call it.
Because our history, although many don’t know it, comes from far away. From far away. It didn’t matter that one day you crossed borders on your way to the Premier League, where they discovered the talent of a unique Niño, first at Liverpool and then at Chelsea. When you returned to your home, to Atlético, I was moved like everyone else because football, beyond successes or failures in sport, is a way of understanding life. And you, Fernando, have dignified this sport. Our sport. I’m not talking about the goals you’ve scored, because years ago I lost count, or the titles you’ve won in your wonderful career. I’m talking about your behaviour, your respect for the game, the team-mate, the opponent and, of course, the ball.
The one that we began to spend in anonymous fields, away from spotlights, cameras, until we came to share thousands of previous 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.
It’s been a wonderful journey. It has taken us to every corner of the world. And look where we are today. In Tosu, you and I playing a football match. One more. But it’s not just another one, it’s your last game, who knew? You face David Villa and I. Then you’ll go home. Yours are waiting for you, although you have to know that the ball will be sadder today than yesterday. Enjoy everything that comes to you now and be happy. But how strange, Fernando. You haven’t left yet and I miss you already.