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Barcelona captain, Busquets to leave club

Sergio Busquets
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Sergio Busquets will leave Barcelona in June at the end of his contract, the midfielder confirmed Wednesday, ending a highly successful era at the club.

“The moment has arrived to announce this is my last season at Barcelona,” said Busquets on Instagram.

“It has been an unforgettable journey.”

Busquets has won the Champions League three times with Barcelona and La Liga on eight occasions before this season, with the Catalans set to triumph again for the first time in four years.

The 34-year-old has been a key player for Barca since breaking into the first team under their former coach Pep Guardiola in 2008, becoming the club’s captain in 2021.

Busquets is Barcelona’s third-highest appearance maker of all time, playing for the club on 718 occasions, lifting 31 trophies in total.

He did not say where he might go next, with Spanish reports suggesting he may move to a team in Saudi Arabia.

“It has been an honour, a dream, a pride. It has been everything to be able to defend and represent this badge for so many years, but everything has a beginning and an end,” continued Busquets.

“Although it has not been an easy decision, I think the time has come.”

Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez, who played with Busquets in the team’s midfield for several years, wanted the midfielder to stay next season, but said the decision was up to him.

Busquets’ team-mates past and present paid tribute to him on social media after he announced his future lay outside the club.

“My friend, after so much we’ve lived through together, what can I say that you don’t know?” wrote Barcelona defender Jordi Alba on Instagram.

“You’re leaving your home, having made an indelible imprint on Barcelona’s history.

“More than 700 games and a fundamental part of so many titles, and glorious nights that all Barca fans will forever remember.”

Former Barcelona playmaker Andres Iniesta said Busquets was “number one”.

– ‘An example’ –
“You are the best, Sergio, I will miss you,” wrote Barca midfielder Sergi Roberto, who is set to inherit the captain’s armband.

“An example in all senses, I have been lucky to share many moments with you and it will not be easy day to day without you.”

Barcelona hailed him as “one of the best players ever to represent the club”.

“Busquets’ story at Barca is one of class and commitment in the centre of midfield,” read a statement on the club website.

“His talent and his ability to read the game has made him one of the best defensive midfielders in the game.”

Busquets has been notable as a ball-playing pivot, using perfect positioning and anticipation rather than physicality to recover the ball for his side.

The veteran has long been thought to favour a move to Major League Soccer in the United States at the end of his Barcelona contract, with Inter Miami one of the teams mentioned.

However in recent days the player has been linked in Spanish media with a move to the Saudi Arabian top flight.

Former Barcelona forward Lionel Messi, a close friend of Busquets, is another player who may end up in the oil-rich kingdom after a source close to negotiations told AFP it was a “done deal” for the Argentine forward to move to the Middle East.

However Messi’s father and agent Jorge Messi said Tuesday that the World Cup winner’s future would only be decided at the end of the season.

Busquets won the World Cup with Spain in 2010 and the European Championship in 2012, a key fixture in the national team for nearly 15 years until he retired from international duty in December.

The midfielder was the only player who won the World Cup in 2010 who was part of Spain’s squad for the Qatar tournament, in which they were eliminated in the last 16.

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