Juanfran to leave Atletico at end of season

Atletico Madrid's Juanfran (L) and Sevilla's Joris Gnagnon in action during their Spanish La Liga soccer match at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium in Madrid, Spain May 12, 2019. EPA-EFE FILE/EMILIO NARANJO

MADRID.- Juan Francisco Torres Belen, best known as Juanfran, will bid farewell to Atletico Madrid at the end of this season.

The right-back who turned 34 on Jan. 9, has declined the one-year contract extension the Spanish club offered him, opening the door for a new stage in his career, sources told EFE.

The former Spanish international played in a total of 29 matches across all competitions this season, which is set to end on Saturday when Atletico pays a visit to Levante in La Liga’s final matchday.

Overall, Juanfran played a total of 354 matches wearing Atletico’s jersey and scored six goals in all competitions since joining the club in January 2011.

For most of his appearances, he played as a fullback, although he used to play as a right-winger when he joined the Madrid club on a transfer deal from Osasuna.

It was veteran Spanish coach Gregorio Manzano who included Juanfran as a fullback, and his Argentine successor Diego Simeone stuck with the role.

The speedy Spaniard from Alicante has been one of the three players – along with Uruguay center-back Diego Godin and Spain midfielder Koke – who have played during the entire era of Simeone at the helm of Atletico.

Juanfran, whose farewell coincided with Godin’s, has won a total of seven titles at Atletico, all under Simeone, including the 2012-2013 Copa del Rey trophy, the 2013-2014 La Liga and the 2014-2015 Spanish Super Cup.

At a European level, he won two UEFA Europa League titles (2011-2012 and 2017-2018) and two UEFA Super Cup trophies (2012-2013 and 2018-2019).

He played for Espanyol at the age of 20, when the Catalan side won the 2005-2006 Cope del Rey title, the fourth and last Spanish Cup trophy for the club.

Joining Atletico enabled Juanfran to be called for the Spanish national team, and his first international appearance was during his country’s friendly 2-0 win over Serbia on May 26, 2012, when he played for 90 minutes.

He was part of the national team that won the UEFA Euro 2012 co-hosted by Poland and Ukraine, although he did not take to the field during the tournament but played the entirety of the game at the Euro 2016 in France.

Juanfran has a lone FIFA World Cup appearance in 2014 in Brazil, when he played the whole match against Australia in the last round of the group stage, assisting in one goal of his side’s 3-0 win.

The farewell of Juanfran and Godin is considered a definitive end to an era of defensive power in the club’s history.

Incidentally, the other veteran defender Filipe Luis of Brazil may not be with Atletico next season.

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