La Liga

Joaquín Contract Extension: Betis Legend Won’t Retire Without Full Stadium

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On 3rd September 2000 Joaquín made his professional debut for Real Betis in La Segunda Division going on to play 38 matches, scoring three goals and helping his side return to LaLiga. 21 years later, in 2021, Real Betis announce that Joaquín signed for another year to captain the side in his 22nd season and 13th in Los Verdiblancos’ first team.

Joaquín is not just on the side lines supporting his teammates, and not just a voice in the dressing room, but still performing in La Liga to a high standard. No one knew what to expect when a 34-year-old Joaquín returned having not made more than 26 appearances a season in three of his last four with Malaga and Serie A side Fiorentina. His importance became immediately clear, the veteran midfielder has even remained a key part of Manuel Pellegrini’s side this season playing in 27 matches, 1599 minutes, scoring twice and assisting six times. Not bad for a man who turns 40 in July.

It turns out, what is playing an influential part in his decision is the lack of supporters in the stadiums.

I want to play with the crowd present before I retire, I would like to retire with the fans in the stands, as i want to invite football fans to attend my final match as the Estadio Benito Villamarin.

via football-espana.net

The club and its fans are clearly firmly set in Joaquín’s heart and his life. In fact, not only is he Betis captain and leader, he is also a shareholder, with a reported investment of over one million Euros. He had already made the club a significant amount when he was sold to Valencia in 2006 for a fee in the region of €25 million, the fourth highest that year in European football and around the same price Inter paid Juventus for Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Having played in two World Cups and Euro 2004 for Spain, he has surprisingly not featured since 2007. Though this may have come to his benefit physically, still being able to compete in LaLiga even 21 years on from his first team debut and 24 years old than the league’s youngest ever debutant- Mallorca’s Luka Romero.

Real Betis star Joaquín during their LaLiga match against Granada CF.
SEVILLE, SPAIN – MAY 10: Joaquin Sanchez of Real Betis looks on during the La Liga Santander match between Real Betis and Granada CF at Estadio Benito Villamarin on May 10, 2021 in Seville, Spain. Sporting stadiums around Spain remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Mateo Villalba/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)

In the 2019/20 season, Joaquín became the oldest player to score a hat-trick in LaLiga at the age of 38; he also holds the record for most LaLiga appearances with an astounding 579. With one more season to play he currently is second on the all-time list of appearances in the Spanish top flight, only behind former Barcelona goalkeeper Andoni Zubizarreta who has 622.

He’s played the joker throughout his career, though his determination and commitment to his game and his team have always been of the highest of standards. He is a world class winger who has had an incredible career to date. Depending on how close he gets next season, could the Evergreen Joaquín continue past 2022 in search of one final record?


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Main image credit: Embed from Getty Images

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