In an act that took place at the Atlético Madrid museum located within the Vicente Calderón, Colchonero captain Antonio López gave a teary-eyed farewell speech, as it has been confirmed he will not be returning to his lifetime club following the summer break.
Surrounded by Atleti’s impressive collection of silverware – including the three cups he lifted as captain of the squad during his 10-season tenure with los Rojiblancos – López was introduced by club president Enrique Cerezo as “Neptuno’s best friend”.
“[Antonio López] is one of the few captains that have lifted three European trophies,” Cerezo said.
“There are few footballers that, like him, have worn the shirt for so many years, and there are even less that have worn the armband for so many seasons.
“You have been a fantastic player and an exemplary man at this club.”
Sporting director José Luis Pérez Caminero, also in attendance, added some kind words for the departing left-back.
“We thank you for your conduct both on and off the pitch, and although you will not continue with us, you will be in everyone’s memories,” said Caminero.
Atlético physiotherapist Esteban Arévalo then surprised the 30-year-old defender by reading a very moving letter.
“Daily life by your side has been very simple, you are a very affable person and it’s difficult to catch you in a bad mood,” said Arevalo, who spent a great deal of time with Antonio towards the end of this injury plagued season for the player.
The physio then thanked López for treating the training staff as “part of the team” and that the “blues”, as ‘el Capi’ affectionately referred to the them as, “will never find a better captain”.
The Benidorm-born man, fighting back tears after such a sentimental introduction, reminisced on his arrival at the club 15 years ago.
“You have all always treated me like family; you received me with open arms,” López said.
“[While wearing the red and white shirt], I was able to go to the Spanish national team and took part in a World Cup. I fulfilled the dream of every child and, of course, mine as well.”
The Atleti youth product then spoke about his favourite moment as a member of Los Rojiblancos, harking back to December of 2007, when his 34-year-old sister, Ana López Guerrero, passed away after a long battle with cancer.
“When my sister died, ‘el Frente Atlético’ had a very nice gesture–displaying a large banner in her memory,” he said.
The veteran full back will also cherish all the titles won with Atleti: two Europa Leagues and one European Super Cup.
“It is something I always wanted,” he said.
“I had always said that I could not leave Atlético Madrid without winning a title, and thank God I have won three. I am a lucky man for being able to put that scarf on ‘Neptuno'”.
Finally, Antonio gave one last speech as skipper to his team-mates, who he referred to as his “blood brothers”.
“You have meant everything to me,” he said.
“I have always said that as captain I can fail at some things, but I have never wanted to fail you. I hope that [I have not]. I also want to tell you that you have helped me become a better footballer, and above all, a better person.”
In his 283 appearances with the club (259 as a starter) in all competitions, Antonio López scored 13 goals and added 11 assists.
What does the future hold for López?
“I still have desire, I feel young, I’m 30 years old, so I have the hope of the boy that left his home at 15 years of age. I suppose you’d ask yourselves where I am going to go and if I have a team. When I know it, you will find out. I have several options, several teams both abroad and in Spain, but as of today I have not signed anything. I am fine physically, and I want to take on a new chapter and I hope that it is, and surely it will be, as satisfying as the one here has been.”