Andres Iniesta has penned an open letter to his fans confirming his retirement from international football after Spain’s World Cup exit.
Spain were defeated on penalties by World Cup hosts Russia on Sunday, bringing the curtain down on Iniesta’s glittering international career.
The 34-year-old Iniesta, who signed for Japanese side Vissel Kobe in May from Barcelona, thanked fans as he reflected on his achievements with the Spanish national side.
Iniesta wrote: ’14 years ago I put on for the first time our national team shirt. I was 15 years old. I will never forget that moment. It was the dream of my life to defend the colours of my country.
‘It was something very special, not just a dream but a great responsibility. I’ve tried to make myself conscious of what it means and always give my best to make yourselves proud.
‘I think that I’ve been lucky to live in one of the best stages of our national team with a great player generation that has been exceptional in every single way. We’ve achieved great success, things that we all dreamed of since we were kids, but also great deceptions and difficult moments.
‘To all, thank you for for making me a better team-mate and football player. It has been a pleasure to share all these years with you.
‘Now is the time to step aside. It is not an easy decision. On the contrary, I’ve been thinking about it a lot these past months. The illusion and will to continue are total but I’ve always said that I will do what is best for the national team.
‘The future is thrilling, with a great group of unbelievable players that from now on will have me as an unconditional supporter. I don’t have any doubt that what will come will be wonderful.’
Iniesta won 131 caps for Spain and scored 13 goals, including the winner in the 2010 World Cup final against Holland.
He also lifted two European Championships, in 2008 and 2012.