28.05.2023 21:50 h

Barca see off Camp Nou, Busquets and Alba

La Liga champions Barcelona enjoyed a series of emotional goodbyes in their final match at Camp Nou before the stadium is rebuilt, thrashing Real Mallorca 3-0 on Sunday.

Captain Sergio Busquets and defender Jordi Alba also played at home for the last time, in the club's penultimate league match of the season, and were awarded warm farewells by the sell-out crowd.

Ansu Fati struck twice in the first half and Gavi added one after the break as the Catalans triumphed in style.

Marc-Andre ter Stegen earned his 26th clean sheet of the season, equalling the all-time record in the division, set by Deportivo La Coruna's Francisco Liano in the 1993-94 campaign.

The only bad news for Barcelona came when defender Alejandro Balde was taken off injured in the first half.

The left-back was lunged at by Mallorca's Amath Ndiaye, who was sent off.

Balde will be out for six to seven weeks, missing the club's final La Liga game and the Nations League final four with Spain.

"It's a sad day, when you play so many games here, Camp Nou is your home," Ter Stegen told DAZN.

"It hurts to say goodbye to team-mates who have been so important in my career like Busquets and Alba have, I wish them and their families the best."

Camp Nou, inaugurated in September 1957, has been one of football's most iconic stadiums since then.

Barcelona will play their home games next season at the Olympic Stadium on Montjuic, a hill in the city, aiming for a return to the rebuilt Camp Nou in November 2024 if construction goes to plan.

The Catalans took the lead when Gavi fed Fati for an easy finish, and the forward struck again after Robert Lewandowski set him up.

Jules Kounde and Lewandowski hit the woodwork in the second half and Ousmane Dembele had a header cleared off the line, before Gavi thrashed home the third.

Alba departed in tears when he was substituted in the final stages with the crowd chanting his name, while Busquets followed and was given an ovation of his own.

The duo could yet appear in Barcelona's final game of the season at Celta Vigo next weekend, but for nearly 90,000 supporters, this is the end of an era.

Some of the fine goals that were scored over the years at Camp Nou were replayed to cheers from supporters after the game, while Alba and Busquets both gave speeches.

"I'm proud of defending this shirt for 18 years," said Alba, who played for Barca at youth level before rejoining 11 years ago under late coach Tito Vilanova.

"Today has been, professionally, the happiest day of my life. I want to remember a very special person, Tito Vilanova, who signed me in 2012."

Busquets said he would be back at Barcelona and that his experiences at the club were better than ones he could have dreamed of.

"Since I was little I've dreamed of playing a game in this stadium that we're saying goodbye to temporarily," added Busquets.

"We're already the best club in the world, with the best players, and now we'll have a stadium on that level."