Joaquín is the perfect example of a duality that has barely been seen in the sports industry before: on one side, the player, and on the other one, the ‘showman’. Many people actually know better his failed signing for Real Madrid that almost ends with him at Albacete or the mythical “I have never held a racket in my life, Hulio” than his role as a footballer.
It has been already 12 years since that interview with Julio Baptista and Joaquín is still on our lives as a professional football player in the First Division. However, it seems correct to assure that Joaquín will not become a coach once he retires, but he will rather participate and run TV shows.
Nevertheless, there is something that we should not forget, and that is the fact that while many would go crazy with that reputation, the winger has always been aware that above all he must perform his best on the field.
I did not have the chance to enjoy of that player that started off his career at his beloved Betis back in 2000, but you can perfectly be aware of how different he was on the field as soon as you make a quick research. Joaquín was that player that dribbled all the time, that winger on his natural side that is so hard to see in current football, a player that destroyed his opponents with the change on his speed. In current football, how much would the Joaquín that signed for Valencia in 2006 in exchange for 25 million euros cost?
My first memories from Joaquín are at that same club, Valencia. But those memories do not focus on a specific game, but instead on the quick games with my brother on the PlayStation 2.
By that time, I already liked ‘Old School Football’ (understand that for me anything previous to my birth was old), which is why Joaquín only seemed familiar to me for the mythical play of the game against South Korean back in the 2022 World Cup. Joaquín was a foreign entity that I used to watch in some opened games broadcasted on TV or with who I gave assists to Villa and Vicente on the 2008 Pes.
Joaquín signed for Málaga in the summer of 2011 and that is when he began to drag my attention. That Champions League Málaga was the story that makes any kid to fall in love with, and so of course he conquered me. He had linked up so much with that team formed by players such as Cazorla, Baptista, Van Nistelrooy, Toulalan or Joaquín himself that, after his exit to Fiorentina, Joaquín was still bonded to Málaga in my mind, but not Betis. That Málaga was like the first love that always leaves a mark on you.
The return home of Joaquín:
I began to be aware of what this winger means to Betis fans as years passed by, but I really understood that the day he returned to the team. 20.000 welcomed him at the stadium by the time he returned at the age of 34. For many it seemed like the classic movement of someone who returns home to retire, but that was not the case of Joaquín.
In fact, since the 2015/2016 season, which is the first year of his second time at Betis, until the 2019/2020 campaign, he increased his scoring numbers every year. Furthermore, he reached his second highest scoring numbers of his entire career at the age of 39, which is something hard to see on players at that age, who are almost retired.
Rumors on his retirement were all around every year, but he kept recycling and adapting himself to his own physical features by going from a dribbling winger to a player that actually moved to interior positions in order to make up for that lost of speed based on his age.
Maybe he wasted a golden opportunity to retire football on his peak by winning the Spanish Cup as the captain in 2022, which was even more significant than the last two that he had already won with Betis in 2005 and Valencia in 2008, but who are we to make opinions on his retirement? Joaquín had earned the right to retire whenever he felt that he could give anything else and so no one could deny him to stay if he wanted to play for an extra year.
Many people stand out too much his role off the field, but they should do the same to the huge competitor that you must be in order to play until the age of 42. Joaquín is already the second player with the most games in LaLiga and it seems that he could overcome the 622 games record held by Andoni Zubizarreta before his retirement (he has currently played 616 games after taking on Osasuna this weekend).
Joaquín represents the circle of life: yo grow up with your family, leave home after having some discussions with them, and come back when you feel that you do not have too much time left together.
His retirement is the end of the dribbling and the speed, but he will never leave the Betis fans’ memories because Joaquín is (and will be) everlasting.
Translated by Guillermo Bermejo.
Main image: Edit by José Manuel Calviño.