Soccer / J. League

Fernando Torres to close out career against David Villa, Andres Iniesta's Vissel Kobe

Reuters, Kyodo

Fernando Torres will hang up his boots for good after taking on Andres Iniesta and David Villa in a J. League first-division match in August, the former Spain striker said on Sunday, having decided to retire before his body gives up on him.

The 35-year-old former Atletico Madrid, Liverpool, Chelsea and AC Milan forward told a news conference that he would bring down the curtain on his career after Sagan Tosu’s home game against the Vissel Kobe side of his fellow World Cup winners on Aug. 23.

“After watching the reaction of the world football, I feel really proud of everything I was able to achieve during my career,” Torres said.

“Sometimes football players only focus on trophies. I did in the past. I wanted to win as many trophies as possible . . . and now that the end is coming, I look back and the best thing I achieved was the respect of everybody.”

Torres scored three goals in 17 games for Sagan after signing with the Kyushu-based club in 2018, but has struggled with fitness this year and has only made six starts so far.

“I feel that physically and mentally I’m coming to a stage where the time when I will not able to perform at the level I want is approaching, and I don’t want to be there when it arrives,” Torres admitted.

“I don’t want to look back in a few years and see myself playing in a level I don’t want to, so it was an easy (decision).”

Torres, who scored the winning goal in the 2008 European Championship final before helping Spain win its first World Cup in 2010, said he would be returning home after his retirement but beyond that, his future plans were unclear.

“I think I need time to be away from daily football, it’s been so many years . . . training every day and playing at the highest level every day,” he added. “So I just need time to spend with my family and think about the next step. I don’t know if it will be coaching or managing.”

Torres scored more than 100 goals over two spells at Atletico Madrid and said he hoped that he could make his boyhood club part of his future at some stage.

“Atletico Madrid is my life so probably there will be a way for us to link up somehow in the future, but not immediately,” he added.

“What I’d like to do with Atletico, if I have a chance to go back, will be something so big that I’ll need training for it,” he said.

“I’ll need to study and understand perfectly how it works, so I will not be back just as a face on show. If I go back it, will be a big role to take the club to the next level.”

Torres, who scored 38 goals in 110 international matches for Spain, made international headlines last year when he signed with Tosu. He helped Sagan narrowly escape relegation from the top flight last year, with the club finishing 14th in the 18-team table, but the team is at the bottom of the J1 table after 16 matches this season.

“I really enjoyed playing in J1, playing in Japan — so fantastic competition,” Torres said. “Any team can beat any team and that makes every game so exciting for supporters but also players.”

Citing his pride at having scored the goal that kept Tosu up last season, Torres said he would do everything he could to help the club’s cause before retiring and would act as an advisor to the club board afterwards.

“I want to really (have) an intense last two months. I’ll give everything that is left inside of me to help the team to improve the current situation, which is not the best,” he said.

“There were some difficult times during my career, but I always looked at them as opportunities, not as a problem. I learned how to solve them and how to come back stronger. The difficult times made me better.”

The match against Iniesta and Villa’s Vissel will kick off the J1’s 24th round on a Friday night at Tosu’s home ground, Ekimae Real Estate Stadium.

“I tried to find an iconic moment to play my final game and I guess that’s perfect timing,” Torres said.

“To say goodbye to football next to my dear friends is something that I could never imagine, and Japan is going to make it possible.”

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