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On September 3, 2000, Joaquín Sánchez Rodríguez made his first-ever LaLiga look, doing so in Real Betis’ goalless draw away at Compostela in LaLiga SmartBank, Spain’s second tier. At the time, few would have anticipated that match to be so important 20 years later, nevertheless it launched one of the crucial thrilling careers within the historical past of Spanish soccer.

Fast ahead twenty years to November 30, 2020, Joaquín made his 600th LaLiga look as Real Betis hosted SD Eibar in LaLiga Santander, a feat that solely 5 different gamers have achieved earlier than him. More than twenty years on, the fresh-faced teenager has turn into a captain, shareholder, and legend of Real Betis.

This story began when he was 16 years previous and moved from Cádiz’s academy to Real Betis in 1997. It was ending college for the teen and, simply three years later, he was the artistic spark of a younger Real Betis group that received promotion again to LaLiga Santander stage. Most memorably, he helped Real Betis to Copa del Rey glory in 2004/05, an achievement that meant a lot that the membership president introduced the trophy to Joaquín’s wedding ceremony that summer time.

The 39-year-old winger hasn’t spent his complete profession within the inexperienced and white of Real Betis, with the center decade of his profession spent at Valencia, Málaga, and Fiorentina. But since his return to the Benito Villamarín in 2015, he has been the chief of the membership in virtually each sense. He nonetheless has his well-known “la finta y el sprint” – “the feint and the sprint” – on the pitch, whereas he’s additionally now a real chief of Los Verdiblancos, sporting the captain’s armband and proudly owning shares within the membership price over a million euros. “It’s a way of paying back the club and fans for what they’ve given me,” he mentioned on the time of his funding in 2017.

Elche CF striker Nino’s 697 appearances between the primary and second tiers of Spanish soccer imply that Joaquín doesn’t fairly have essentially the most league appearances out of this season’s gamers, nevertheless it wants to be stored in thoughts that he’s removed from executed. His present contract runs till the summer time of 2021, when he’ll flip 40, however he’d be eager to preserve going. During a current look on Spanish radio station Cadena Ser, the Real Betis captain defined: “It would make me really sad to retire without the fans in this atypical season. I feel I have the energy to carry on.”

Joaquín, then, might reach additional milestones earlier than he hangs up his boots. Already he’s the Real Betis player with essentially the most league appearances ever, however he’s nonetheless chasing José Ramón Esnaola’s document for Real Betis appearances throughout all competitions. Esnaola retired with 459 and Joaquín is quickly closing in with 441.

The winger may climb additional up the Real Betis all-time prime scorers charts. With 59 targets for the membership, he’s presently 10th, however he’s only a few behind sixth-placed Fernando Ansola’s tally of 67 targets and that could possibly be achievable earlier than the top of the present season.

It’s achievable as a result of Joaquín remains to be enjoying so properly. He has turn into so well-known in Spain and around the globe for his hilarity, from posing bare with the Copa del Rey that he received in 2007/08 with Valencia to his dad jokes throughout TV and radio appearances. But it’s his soccer that has allowed him to preserve enjoying to the age of 39 and probably past. As he remarked in an interview with El País: “It’s not because I’m funny that I’ve been able to play so many years at the top level.”

Reuters

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