Sergio Ramos became Spain's joint most-capped player on Sunday, moving level with former Real Madrid team-mate Iker Casillas.

Captain Ramos lined up for his national team for the 167th time, as they played a Euro 2020 qualifier against the Faroe Islands.

The appearance also moved him into the top 10 for the most-capped internationals ever in a list that includes only three other Europeans - Italian Gianluigi Buffon, Latvian Vitalijs Astafjevs and Casillas.

Here we profile Spain's five most-capped players.

 

Sergio Ramos - 167 caps

Ramos, 33, made his debut back as an 18-year-old against Chile in 2005, becoming the youngest player to debut for Spain in over half a century.

He was an ever-present at right-back during the World Cup triumph in 2010, won the European Championship twice with his country and is also in the top 10 of Spain's leading scorers.

Iker Casillas - 167 caps

Another to make his international bow as a teenager, Casillas was part of Spain's Euro 2000 squad having made his debut earlier that year.

Casillas became La Roja's number one at the World Cup two years later and held onto his spot between the posts until 2016.

Xavi - 133 caps

Former Barcelona midfielder Xavi was part of Spain's Olympics squad in 2000 and went on to feature at four World Cups, three European Championships and two Confederations Cups.

He received Player of the Tournament honours when Spain won Euro 2008 and was in the Team of the Tournament line-up for both the World Cup in 2010 and Euro 2012.

Andres Iniesta - 131 caps

Xavi's former Barcelona team-mate Iniesta will most fondly be remembered as the man who finally brought the World Cup to Spain after scoring the extra-time winner in the final against Netherlands in 2010.

Iniesta landed the Player of the Tournament award at Euro 2012 and continued to star for Spain until his retirement from international football after the 2018 World Cup.

Andoni Zubizarreta - 126 caps

The only player in this list not to have played for Spain this millennium, goalkeeper Zubizarreta first pulled on the La Roja jersey in 1985.

He featured in four successive World Cups for his country and retired in 1998 as Spain's most-capped player - a record that was only broken in 2011 by Casillas.

Barcelona great Andres Iniesta has revealed how his father has been the biggest influence on his professional career.

The 35-year-old established his place as one of the world's finest midfielders during a 16-year senior career at Camp Nou.

Iniesta won nine LaLiga titles - only Lionel Messi, with 10, has more - among 32 titles with Barca, for whom he registered 35 goals and 87 assists in 442 league appearances.

He also won two European Championships and the 2010 World Cup with Spain, scoring the winning goal in the final of the latter against Netherlands in Johannesburg.

His success marks quite the journey for Iniesta, who was born in the village of Fuentealbilla close to Albacete in 1984 and first joined Barca's famed La Masia academy at the age of 12.

Iniesta, now at Vissel Kobe in Japan, credits his father as the most important figure in his footballing life.

"My father was the most important figure for my career," said Iniesta, courtesy of LaLiga. "He was not my coach, not at all, but from very small I was always with him, he was the first who gave me a plastic football out on the patio of our house.

"I always listened to him. He has given me his advice. Above all, he would always tell me that the most important opinion was that of my coach. I had to do what the coach told me, and that has always been very important."

He continued: "I've always been very clear about what I wanted to do, that has always been the most important for me. The principal objective has always been to learn things to become a better player, respect those around me always. That has been my path.

"Maybe I would have done some things differently, I don't know. There are things I did well, others not so well, but that's life. When you make mistakes, you can correct them, and move forward.

Amid his numerous collective and individual titles, Iniesta ranks his debut as his top LaLiga moment.

"I had the opportunity to play for many years, to experience unique moments, winning La Liga titles, winning important games, Clasicos and others," he said. "There were difficult moments, but in general it was great. To be so long at such a high level, in the best league, was a real source of pride for me.

"As I like beginnings, my most iconic moment was my LaLiga debut against Mallorca, and then playing at the Camp Nou against Recreativo de Huelva."

He also holds fond memories of playing alongside a series of top Spain internationals during his Camp Nou days.

"Sergio Busquets, Jordi Alba, Xavi, Carles Puyol, David Villa… the good thing about football is that you meet great people and you share many things with them over many years," he said. "Some of them you stay in touch with, others you don't, but there are always great memories."

Iniesta does admit it is important to hold interests outside of football, however.

"You never have that much spare time as a footballer, and even less these days," he added. "You try and have some hobbies or pastimes, things that fill your time away from the game. The bodega [winery] that our family have had since 2010 is a very nice project. There is also the 'Mikakus' range of trainers. We try and do different social projects, things that keep you excited and interested."

Fernando Torres did not get a fitting finale to his football career as Sagan Tosu were routed 6-1 on Friday by a Vissel Kobe side led by his former Spain colleagues Andres Iniesta and David Villa.

Torres played for the final time in the J.League clash in Tosu, but his struggling side were dismantled - with friend and former team-mate Iniesta playing a central role.

The former Atletico Madrid and Liverpool superstar played the full 90 minutes but failed to find the net, with Tosu's only strike a Thomas Vermaelen own goal.

Iniesta was in fine form for Vissel, scoring a 20th-minute penalty to put the visitors 2-0 up and then playing a gorgeous pass in the build-up to Junya Tanaka's well-worked effort two minutes later.

The ex-Barcelona midfielder was later withdrawn injured, but David Villa appeared from the bench as Vissel ran riot.

Iniesta had written a letter to Torres in tribute before the match and the striker could at least be comforted by continued messages throughout and after the defeat.

Former Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard appeared in a video on the big screen at the stadium to address Torres, while Sergio Ramos led the numerous Twitter posts.

"Team-mate, opponent, friend, legend," Ramos wrote. "A kid from Fuenlabrada who won everything while always remaining the same 'Nino'."

Torres addressed the crowd with a speech after the match, thanking the club and fans for their attitude and welcoming nature during his time in Japan.

"Even when in the danger of being relegated last year, everyone continued to be professional and hard-working," Torres told the crowd. "They kept their positive attitude no matter how hard things were.

"I really learned a lot from everyone and I hope everyone learned something from me, even a little bit. I hope I can move forward.

"Thanks to all of Japan for accepting our family. Please know that there is a wonderful country called Japan."

Andres Iniesta penned an emotional letter to Fernando Torres as the two prepared to face one another a final time in the Sagan Tosu striker's last professional match.

Torres has announced he will retire from football following Friday's fixture between his Sagan side and Iniesta's Vissel Kobe.

The Spain greats enjoyed international success at the 2010 World Cup and two European Championships, having played together since representing their country at youth level.

Iniesta wrote a lengthy letter to Torres before Friday's game, in which the playmaker netted a penalty before going off injured as Vissel surged into a 3-0 half-time lead, published in El Mundo.

"How weird. Don't tell me it's not, Fernando. It's very strange, I would say beautifully strange," he wrote.

"Here we are both about to play your last game as a professional. I still have some left, but here we are on the other side of the world. It is as if life brought us to Japan to say goodbye.

"Football joined us more than 20 years ago when we were children. Well, you will be forever El Nino. And it will never separate us."

Reflecting on their continued success with Spain while representing rival clubs, Iniesta goes on: "Separated, but always together - and until the last moment.

"Above shirts or clubs, we lived in different cities - you in Madrid and I in Barcelona - but we were never enemies, simply friends who wore a different shirt."

Iniesta, who plays with fellow former Spain star David Villa in Japan, concluded: "It has been a wonderful trip. It has taken us to all corners of the world.

"And look where we are today: in Tosu, you and I playing a football game, one more. But it is not one mor, it is your last game. Who was going to tell us? You face 'El Guaje' Villa and I.

"Then, you will return home. Yours are waiting for you, although you have to know that the ball will be sadder today than yesterday.

"Enjoy everything that comes to you now and be happy. But how strange, Fernando. You haven't left yet and I miss you already."

Torres responded to Iniesta's letter with a Twitter post: "Today I woke up knowing that I play my last game as a professional and thinking that I would face it normally.

"Then I read a friend's letter and I start to get excited... thanks friend, @andresiniesta8."

Young winger Carles Perez struck a second-half brace to give Barcelona a 2-0 victory over Vissel Kobe in a low-key friendly in Japan on Saturday.

The Spanish champions toiled for nearly an hour before substitute Perez made the breakthrough following a neat exchange of passes with Malcom.

His second followed four minutes from the end, the 21-year-old clinically firing into the bottom right corner off his left foot.

Ernesto Valverde started Antoine Griezmann, Sergio Busquets and Ivan Rakitic but saved Frenkie de Jong, who debuted in the 2-1 loss to Chelsea earlier in the week, until the second 45 minutes.

De Jong's half-time introduction denied him the chance to go head-to-head with Blaugrana great Andres Iniesta, one of three former Barca players involved in the J.League side's matchday squad.

Iniesta, 35, managed to test Marc-Andre ter Stegen five minutes before the interval in a rare moment of defensive concern in what was otherwise a comfortable outing for LaLiga's champions.

Riqui Puig and Croatia international Rakitic threatened either side of Iniesta's shot but it was not until Perez arrived that Valverde's men were able to break the deadlock.

Barca, who before the match announced the beginning of formal partnership with Vissel Kobe, next face Premier League side Arsenal on August 4.

Thomas Vermaelen has followed Andres Iniesta and David Villa to J.League club Vissel Kobe following the expiry of his contact with Barcelona.

The Japanese side announced the signing of their fourth former Barca player as the clubs, who were preparing to face each other in a pre-season match on Saturday, moved to formalise their growing links.

Ahead of the friendly encounter, LaLiga champions Barca and Vissel Kobe announced the agreement of a knowledge-sharing partnership spanning marketing, commercial and staff management practices.

Scouting reports will also be shared and young players will have the opportunity to move between the clubs for training experience.

Vissel Kobe are owned by e-commerce company Rakuten, Barca's shirt sponsor and "main global partner" since 2017.

Iniesta left Camp Nou for the J.League in 2018 and has since been joined by former team-mates Villa and Sergi Samper.

Belgium international Vermaelen is the latest beneficiary of the link following Barcelona's decision not to renew his deal for a sixth season.

"When I came here, I had a very warm welcome and a lot of support," former Arsenal player Vermaelen said upon signing for his new club.

"I can't wait to start. I'm excited about it. I would like to do my best to improve the team."

Barca's clash with Vissel Kobe was their second pre-season outing, Ernesto Valverde's men having lost 2-1 to Chelsea earlier this week.

Andres Iniesta is anticipating a special game between Vissel Kobe and his former club Barcelona, and feels privileged to be involved.

Iniesta left Barca in 2018 after 16 years in the first team at Camp Nou, joining the J1 League club.

The former Spain international will go up against his former team for the first time in Saturday's friendly.

And the 35-year-old is expecting the match to be a momentous occasion not just personally, but also for Vissel Kobe's players and fans.

"For us it is a privilege to play Barcelona. It will be a very special game," he told a news conference.

"Personally, it will be special to play against some former colleagues. We will try to compete at our best, also in order to get prepared for our next [J1 League] game, which is the important one.

"We expect all the fans can have some fun with this match. Hopefully it will be a special day for all our fans, Barcelona fans and also for all the Japanese people."

While Vissel Kobe's J1 League campaign is well underway, the game is Barca's second pre-season friendly, with Ernesto Valverde's side having lost 2-1 to Chelsea on Tuesday.

LaLiga champions Barca host Arsenal at Camp Nou in their next outing, before taking on Napoli twice in the United States prior to starting their season against Athletic Bilbao.

As such, Valverde had little time with his squad before leaving Spain for Japan, and he conceded Barca's gruelling travel routine has not helped his players' fitness.

"Obviously, our preseason is not a standard one if you compare it with the rest of the teams," Valverde told a news conference.

"We just need to adapt ourselves to all these trips following the interests of our club as it needs to expand their brand.

"Besides, the club can get an important amount of money by playing these kind of games, so we must adapt ourselves to this factor.

"In terms of training sessions we are a bit short of shape as we have been working out just for a single week. Here [in Japan] the level of intensity at the training sessions is a bit different."

Andres Iniesta is adamant his former Barcelona team-mate Ivan Rakitic wants to stay at Camp Nou despite links with Paris Saint-Germain, Inter and Manchester United.

Croatia international Rakitic has spent five seasons at Barca following a move from Sevilla in 2014 and has been a key part of the side ever since, making at least 32 LaLiga appearances in each campaign.

Although his coaches have valued Rakitic's input, some supporters have questioned whether the 31-year-old merits inclusion in the Barca team.

But in spite of United, Inter and PSG apparently holding an interest in Rakitic, Iniesta is convinced his former colleague has no plans to leave.

"I don't know if he is untransferable, but I know he is happy and wants to stay at Barca," Iniesta told reporters in Japan before his Vissel Kobe side face the Blaugrana on Saturday.

"I hope he can [stay at the club] and continue to perform as before. I would be happy for him."

One player linked with a move to Barca is Neymar, another former team-mate of Iniesta's at Camp Nou.

The PSG star is at odds with his employers, who have confirmed he can leave for the right price, and Iniesta is eager to see the Brazilian back with the Spanish champions.

"I have said it many times, for me, as a player he is one of the best there is," Iniesta said. "If his signing is going well or badly, that is something the club must conclude.

"They are considerations of the sports management. But as a player, he is one of the best."

Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong played down comparisons to club greats Xavi and Andres Iniesta.

De Jong, 22, was signed by the LaLiga champions from Ajax in January for a reported €75million, but only made the move at the end of the season.

The Netherlands international has already been compared to Xavi and Iniesta, however, De Jong had no interest in discussing any similarities.

"I don't want to be compared with those players," De Jong told Barca TV.

"It's the perfect club for a midfielder. They hold onto the ball well, they control the play, it suits me perfectly."

De Jong joins Barcelona after a fine season with Ajax, winning a domestic double and reaching the Champions League semi-finals.

Barca were also eliminated in the semis, continuing their wait for a first Champions League crown since 2015.

Discussing his goals for 2019-20, De Jong is eager to be a regular starter for Barca – and he wants to help deliver in Europe.

"I want to start most games. All players want that. I'll work as hard as I can in training to show what I can do in games," he said.

"I like to play attacking football, for it to be attractive and for people to have fun when they come to the stadium.

"Both me and Barca are really keen to win the Champions League this year and I hope that's what happens."

Fernando Torres believes facing former Spain colleagues David Villa and Andres Iniesta will make for "the perfect finale" when he plays his last professional match in the J.League on August 23.

Having announced his decision to retire from football and bring the curtain down on 18 trophy-laden years in the game, Torres explained his decision to make Sagan Tosu's clash with Vissel Kobe his last appearance.

The 35-year-old striker shared Spain's Euro 2008 and 2010 World Cup triumphs with Villa and Iniesta, both of whom chose to move to Japan in the last 14 months.

Torres, who left Atletico Madrid for Sagan in July 2018, said the opportunity to end his career in the company of friends was too good to miss.

"When we took the decision that this was going to be the last season, we thought about doing it as best we could and there was a fixture on the calendar against Vissel Kobe, so I decided on that date," he told AS.

"Japan gives me the opportunity to retire on the football pitch with two friends who have meant a lot to me.

"I partnered up front with David when the history of the Spanish side changed, we've played so many games, we've scored so many goals.

"With Andres, our careers have been in parallel because we started together in the Spain set-up when we were 15 years old. We won everything with full Spain team, we left our clubs the same year and we came to the same league."

Torres has yet to find the net for a struggling Sagan Tosu side in 2019, making six starts and 11 appearances as the club picked up four wins from their 16 J.League matches, leaving them at the foot of the table.

Vissel Kobe are five points above them in 13th, but competitive rivalry will briefly take a backseat when the two clubs meet at Ekimae Real Estate Stadium.

"I'm going to be able to have two friends on the field, so I can give them a hug the day I hang up my boots," said Torres.

"It's the perfect finale."

Barcelona are aiming for a record fifth successive Copa del Rey triumph on Saturday when they face Valencia, with the Catalans' recent dominance in the competition seeing them reach the final sixth times in a row.

If Ernesto Valverde's men complete the feat, they will certainly have done it the hard way, as they have had to get past Real Madrid and Sevilla en route to the final and will now face a Valencia side who finished fourth in LaLiga.

The pressure is on, however. Barca disappointed supporters by failing to reach the Champions League final, despite beating Liverpool 3-0 in the semi-final first leg, and some are calling for Valverde to lose his job.

Winning only LaLiga when a treble looked extremely likely just a few weeks ago could potentially spell doom for the head coach, but the omens are good for Barca, as their previous five finals have shown…

2013-14: Real Madrid 2-1 Barcelona

Having seen LaLiga and the Champions League move out of reach in the build-up, Barca – and specifically coach Gerardo Martino – needed a victory in the 2013-14 final. Things got off to a bad start when Angel Di Maria opened the scoring after a good move in the 11th minute. Marc Bartra levelled with a powerful second-half header, but Gareth Bale clinched the first piece of silverware of his career with a spectacular late solo winner, consigning Barca to their first trophyless season since 2008, which cost Martino his job.

2014-15: Athletic Bilbao 1-3 Barcelona

If 2013-14 was a failure, the following season was the complete opposite. Having already wrapped up the league title, Barca cruised to victory in the Copa, giving club great Xavi the ideal final Camp Nou outing. The magnificent Lionel Messi starred, opening the scoring with a marvellous solo effort, before Neymar rounded off a flowing move for 2-0. Their Argentinian talisman ended Athletic's chances towards the end, with Inaki Williams' goal a mere consolation. Barca then went on to complete a treble with a 3-1 win over Juventus in the Champions League final.

2015-16: Barcelona 2-0 Sevilla (AET)

Fresh from beating Liverpool in the Europa League final, Sevilla were eager to upset another European giant. Barca were not helped by Javier Mascherano's dismissal for hauling down Kevin Gameiro in the first half, but they ended up managing the rest of the regulation 90 minutes fairly well and the numbers were evened up late on when Ever Banega was sent off. Barca simply had too much for Sevilla in extra time, as Jordi Alba and then Neymar got the goals, while Daniel Carrico was shown the game's third red card.

2016-17: Barcelona 3-1 Deportivo Alaves

A first ever Copa final for Alaves promised little given who they were up against. A Theo Hernandez free-kick offered them a measure of hope just after Messi's 30th-minute opener, but Barca ultimately had things wrapped by half-time, with Neymar and Paco Alcacer putting the game beyond Mauricio Pellegrino's men. Having missed out on the league title, Copa success at least meant Barca did not end the campaign empty-handed, with Luis Enrique leaving his post shortly after.

2017-18: Sevilla 0-5 Barcelona

While Barca's Copa tussle with Sevilla in 2016 was a gripping encounter, last season's meeting showed an alarming gulf. Andres Iniesta starred in what proved to be his last final for the club, scoring the fourth goal, but victory was effectively secured by half-time given a Luis Suarez double and a solitary Messi effort had them 3-0 up at the interval. Philippe Coutinho's penalty finished things off, as Barca went on to seal a domestic double, while Sevilla sacked Montella a week later.

Barcelona have confirmed a reunion with former players Andres Iniesta and David Villa after booking a pre-season friendly with Vissel Kobe.

Iniesta ended a career-long association with Barca by signing for the Japanese side last year, with Villa and former Camp Nou midfielder Sergi Samper now also at the club.

But the trio will all have a chance to catch up with old friends including Lionel Messi, Gerard Pique and Sergio Busquets as Barca are heading to Japan on tour.

Ernesto Valverde's men, seeking to complete the treble this term, will take on Premier League club Chelsea in Tokyo on July 23.

Then, four days later they will head to Kobe to face Iniesta, Villa and Samper's Vissel side to conclude the Rakuten Cup.

Barca director of football Eric Abidal said: "We've had some fantastic battles against Chelsea in recent years and we're looking forward to playing them again in Tokyo.

"As for Vissel, the match will be very special for us as there are three players who are now in Kobe, but who have been part of the Barca family: Sergi Samper, David Villa and Andres Iniesta.

"We're excited to bring our unique style of play to our fanbase in Japan."

Andres Iniesta helped convince Sergi Samper to sign for Vissel Kobe, the former Barcelona midfielder has confirmed.

Samper's departure from Barca was announced on Monday with the leaders of LaLiga agreeing to cancel his contract.

The midfielder's career has been wrecked by injuries and he has made just a single appearance across all competitions for Barca this season.

And Samper feels a switch to J1 League where he will reunite with Barca icon Iniesta could be the kickstart he needs.

"Andres was key, he told me several times that it was a good place," Samper told a farewell Barca news conference. "And Gerard [Pique] also advised me. The news came through from him. I'm very grateful.

"It was not an easy decision, going to Japan at 24 is something I had not thought about, but seeing the project and seeing that I can feel loved and valued again... I'm focused on the present.

"I have not had good luck, the injuries have burdened me, but you never know what would have happened. They have hurt me, I am convinced that things would have gone better for me, although you never know 100 per cent.

"It's been difficult, stressful days, speaking with the most intimate family and friends, it's a difficult and complicated decision, but I think it's right. It's been four or five days, they came to explain it to me, it's been risky because you change continent and life, but I wanted to prove myself, it's a very competitive league. 

"I talked to Iniesta and he explained to me how they play, he told me that it is a very technical league and that I will enjoy it a lot. It was a decision made in a week, and all the information I got from the project was very interesting.

"I want to play again and enjoy football, when you sit down with the owner of the club and with the founder of [Vissel backers] Rakuten and they explain a solid and ambitious project, they convinced me, they want to play in the Barca style.

"Andres convinced me to go to Japan, those calls have been very important."

As well as Iniesta, Samper joins David Villa and Lukas Podolski at Vissel Kobe, who have taken three points from their first two games of the new J1 League season.

Barcelona have cancelled the contract of midfielder Sergi Samper amid reports of an impending link-up with Andres Iniesta at Japanese side Vissel Kobe.

Samper, 24, leaves Barca after never really living up to his early promise, having been highly rated when coming through their La Masia academy.

A technically gifted midfielder, Samper was initially seen as the long-term successor to Sergio Busquets and was handed his senior debut in September 2014, appearing against APOEL in the Champions League.

He had to wait until March 2016 for his LaLiga debut, and loan spells with Granada and Las Palmas followed.

But neither move went to plan, with both clubs suffering relegation from the top flight, and his development was hampered by injuries, particularly at Las Palmas.

Reports in Spain claim Samper is expected to join his former Barca team-mate Iniesta at Vissel Kobe.

Samper is expected to confirm his next move at a news conference on Tuesday.

David Villa scored his first goal for Vissel Kobe to give them a 1-0 J1 League win over a Sagan Tosu side featuring Fernando Torres.

Villa, making only his second appearance in Japan's top flight after leaving New York City, swept home following a defensive mix-up 54 minutes in to secure all three points for the home side.

"I am really pleased that I scored," the former Barcelona star said after the match. "I am more pleased that it has led to three points. I had a wonderful game. I want to continue like this."

Team-mate Andres Iniesta hopes it is the first of many goals for Villa, Spain's all-time top scorer.

"It was a really wonderful atmosphere - I really want to thank all the supporters," said Iniesta. "It was good that Villa scored in this game. Villa will continue to bring goals to this team."

It was a disappointing outing for fellow former Spain star Torres, who has lost both of his matches for Sagan Tosu this season.

"Playing against best friends and former team-mates on the pitch is a great thing in football. However, no result came into play," he said.

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