BARCELONA (Reuters) - The universal appeal of Barcelona’s Andres Iniesta was highlighted on Saturday when supporters of arch-rivals Espanyol unveiled a banner in tribute to the veteran Spain midfielder, who is leaving the club at the end of the season.
The Barca-Espanyol derby has become especially fraught in recent years but fans of the city’s second team have always been fond of Iniesta due to his friendship with late Espanyol captain Dani Jarque, who died of a heart attack in 2009 aged 26.
Iniesta, 33, said on Friday he was leaving after 16 glorious years with Barca and the Espanyol supporters marked the announcement in their 1-1 draw with Las Palmas on Saturday by holding up a banner saying: “Thanks Iniesta, for being a friend above everything else.”
Iniesta famously honoured Jarque when he scored the goal that won Spain the 2010 World Cup final against the Netherlands by lifting off his shirt to reveal a vest saying: “Dani Jarque, always with us.”
Iniesta received a standing ovation the next time he played away to Espanyol after the World Cup and is the only Barcelona player to get a positive reception at their stadium.
Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Ken Ferris