Sergio Busquets leaving Barcelona will be the end of an era

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The veteran midfielder announced that he will be leaving the Catalan giants at the end of the season.

Is this what the end of an era feels like? On Wednesday, Sergio Busquets, that great pack mule among thoroughbred stallions, announced that he will be leaving Barcelona at the end of the season. It is one of those moments that you never truly imagined would arrive.

The numbers, as you might expect, are absurd. In the 18 years since his debut, Busquets has amassed eight La Liga titles, seven Copa del Reys, three Champions Leagues, 719 Barcelona appearances, 143 Spain caps, one World Cup, and a European Championship. With Barca 13 points clear at the top of La Liga and just five games remaining, he is all but guaranteed one more medal to add to his imperious collection too. Careers don’t get much more august than this - not to mention careers spent entirely under the employment of one club.

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It’s no shock, then, that in the words of Busquets himself, walking away from Barca has been a difficult conclusion to arrive at. “Although it has not been an easy decision, I think the time has come,” he said. “It has been an unforgettable journey. I always dreamed of playing with this shirt and at this stadium. Reality has exceeded all my dreams.

“It has been an honour, a dream, a source of pride, and it meant everything to defend and represent this badge for so many years. But everything has a beginning and an end. I want to thank all the people who made this possible, from the first day to the last.”

And he’s right, y’know; everything does have an end. With Busquets’ departure, however, it is not just a personal association that culminates, but an entire epoch of Catalan football. The inexhaustible midfield general, always far more graceful than his air of gangliness suggested, is the last of a team that defined a generation. Valdes, Alves, Puyol, Pique, Alba, Iniesta, Xavi (in a playing capacity, at least), Neymar, Suarez, and, of course, Messi, have all moved on. Busquets is the last towering monolith, the one surviving veteran left sporting the captain’s armband and the fragmented remnants of a nostalgic yesteryear.

Even now, after all he has done, you could argue that he is under-appreciated by some. In many respects, that’s understandable. Busquets was never as creative as Xavi, or as magical as Iniesta. He was always the enforcer of the trio, the grizzled heavy in a good cop/bad cop/good cop dynamic. But make no mistake, he has always been able to play. The 34-year-old is like an octopus; all limbs, frighteningly intelligent, and able to contort and connive his way out of any tight space he finds himself boxed into.

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For 18 years, he has been the ballast, the linchpin on which Barca has entrusted the heft of its attacking swarm. Busquets is a home insurance policy made flesh, the foldable anorak you stow away in the bottom of your suitcase ahead of a long, summery weekend on the continent... just in case. He might not be the most glamorous, but he has been irreplaceable for the best part of two decades.

And that obviously begs the question, how do Barcelona replace him? At this stage, they probably don’t know themselves. But one thing is for certain, when Busquets does eventually ride off into sunset, or indeed just march away towards the horizon with two bulging bags of trinkets slung across his own dogged shoulders, he will leave behind him a black hole; one that will not only suck up the dregs of a remarkable career, but also the final shreds of something really, truly special.

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