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'They have been wonderful years': Atletico exodus continues as veteran defender leaves

Juanfran bid farewell to the club after 355 games and seven trophies.

Juanfran made 355 appearances for Atletico.
Juanfran made 355 appearances for Atletico.

JUANFRAN SAID AN emotional goodbye to Atletico Madrid as he prepares to leave when his contract expires in June, claiming he “came a Viking and I leave as an Indian.”

Atleti arranged a ceremony where the experienced right-back made a departing speech and was hailed by president Enrique Cerezo before being gifted a signed shirt.

“These are my last few days at Atletico, I hope to return soon, this is my home. They have been wonderful years, the best of my career,” Juanfran said.

“It is an honour to be considered a legend of this club and it is incredible that people think I’m one of them.”

The Spain international has made 355 appearances for Los Rojiblancos since joining from Osasuna in 2011 and has won seven trophies, famously including La Liga in 2013-14, one Copa del Rey, a Supercopa de Espana, two Uefa Super Cups and a pair of Europa League titles.

He also started for Diego Simeone’s side in the 2014 and 2016 Champions League finals, where Atleti were edged out by bitter rivals Real Madrid – the club where Juanfran started his career.

Marseille v Atletico Madrid - UEFA Europa League - Final - Parc Olympique Lyonnais Juanfran celebrates after beating Marseille in the 2018 Europa League final. Source: EMPICS Sport

“I came from a Real Madrid past, a Real Madrid father [but] I quickly changed to Atletico,” he said.

“The other day I read ‘he arrived a Viking, he left an Indian”, and that’s how it is. I leave as an Indian after feeling the magic of Atletico, the values and all those people who have let me give them all the heart I have.

I have had wonderful colleagues who have made me be the good person and good professional that I am.”

Cerezo, who has been Atletico president since 2003, offered a touching tribute to the 34-year-old.

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“There are two words that define the years of Juanfran – delivery and commitment,” he said. “From the first training session to the last match.

“We do not say goodbye to you since this will always be your home. For your passion, courage, commitment, thanks with all our heart.”

Juanfran added: “Thank you very much for loving me, being proud of me, chanting my name in the Calderon and Metropolitano. That is much bigger than these titles. People want titles but before this there’s love and respect.

Spain: Atletico de Madrid - Getafe. The former Spain international helped Atletico win La Liga in 2014. Source: SIPA USA/PA Images

“Los Rojiblancos are my family. I thank them from the bottom of my heart. I will return soon to try and make us better. It’s a moment of change, of transition.

“Others are staying to continue to pick up the slack. Koke is staying to be captain, there is no one better than him. I have lots of hopes for Atletico in the years to come. We will return to being champions.”

Star forward Antoine Griezmann has announced his intention to leave the Wanda Metropolitano, while Juanfran’s fellow defenders Diego Godin and Lucas Hernandez have departed.

Midfielder Rodri has been heavily linked with a move to Manchester City, while the futures of Filipe Luis and Thomas Partey are also uncertain.

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