BARCELONA, Spain (AP)Sergio Busquets, who has been a mainstay in Spain’s midfield for more than a decade and helped the country win the 2010 World Cup, is retiring from international soccer.
The 34-year-old Busquets, who also won the 2012 European Championship, is ending his Spain career after 143 appearances, the Spanish national team said Friday. Only Sergio Ramos (180) and Iker Casillas (167) played more games for Spain.
”It has been an honor to represent my country at the highest level, to be a world and European champion, to be captain and play so many games, with greater or less success but always giving it my all,” Busquets said in a message posted on Instagram.
Busquets captained Spain at the World Cup in Qatar. He was one of three Spain players to miss a penalty in a surprising shootout loss against Morocco in the round of 16.
It marks the end of an era for Spain, as the Barcelona defensive midfielder was the only remaining member of the world champion team from South Africa who was still playing for his country. Now Jordi Alba is the only active Spain player to have lifted a major title at Euro 2012.
The lanky Busquets was a key part of the successes of Barcelona and Spain when he lined up for both club and country beside Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez.
Busquets always stood out as a player who did not fit the mold. Neither fast nor a scoring threat, he proved indispensable for all his coaches thanks to his passing skills in tight spaces, his long legs that hemmed in opponents, and his uncanny ability to maintain possession under pressure. Those qualities made him an integral part of the ”tiki-taka” passing game practiced by Spain and Barcelona.
Spanish soccer federation president Luis Rubiales also praised Busquets for being a ”quiet, serene leader who was admired by everyone.”
In addition to his titles with Spain, he has helped Barcelona win three Champions League titles and several other trophies.
Busquets’ contract with Barcelona expires at the end of this season. He has been linked with a possible move to Major League Soccer in the U.S.
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