Andres Iniesta on Sunday announced his retirement from international football following Spain’s 4-3 penalty defeat against hosts Russia in the Round of 16 of the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Iniesta started Sunday’s last-16 game on the bench as coach Fernando Hierro opted to rest the Barcelona legend.
But, with Spain failing to break down a determined Russia backline, Iniesta was drafted in after 67 minutes and subsequently converted his penalty in the shoot-out after a 1-1 draw.
“It is a reality that is my last match with the national team,” he said.
Iniesta, who made his debut in 2006, also helped Spain win the European Championship in 2008 and 2012 during a glittering 12 year international career.
“Sometimes the endings are not as one dreams,” added the former Barcelona player. “It is the saddest day of my career.”
Iniesta ended his 22 year career at Barca in May when he moved to Japanese top-flight side Vissel Kobe.
He won 32 trophies at Barcelona, where he made 674 senior appearances, having joined the youth set-up aged 12.
Spain boss Fernando Hierro described Iniesta as “one of the greatest players in our history”.
“The way he played on the pitch when he substituted on was like he was playing in his first cap and I want to thank him whole-heartedly,” he said.
Chelsea midfielder Cesc Fabregas, who played with Iniesta at Barcelona and for Spain, added: “Andres doesn’t deserve to go out like this.”
“There is a lot of pain.”