The legend of Spanish football, Joaquin Sanchez, has announced that he will retire at the end of the season. It is logical that he will hang up his boots as a football player for his beloved Betis, for whom he is currently the captain. Joaquin is also the player with the most matches in the history of “Los Verdiblancos.”
In February 2020, he received the title “Beloved Son of Andalusia.” The honorary title is awarded for exceptional merits or distinctions that have benefited the autonomous region.
Joaquin Sanchez Rodriguez has played in 615 La Liga matches. If he plays eight more games in the remaining nine rounds of the Spanish championship, he will climb to the top of the historical ranking of La Liga. Only Andoni Zubizarreta with 622 games is ahead of him.
The midfielder is the only player to have scored a goal in four different decades (’90s, ’00s, ’10s, and ’20s). On July 21, 2023, he will celebrate an impressive 41 years as a professional football player.
Joaquin was born in El Puerto de Santa Maria, in the province of Cadiz. This is where he began his football career at Los Frailes, and shortly after, he moved to San Luis. In 1997, he joined the Betis academy, where he won the King’s Cup for youth two years later, followed by the Spanish Super Cup.
In the 1999/2000 season, Joaquin was promoted to the reserve team of Betis, where he played 26 matches. In the following campaign, he was promoted to the first team of Sevilla. At the age of 19, he made his debut against Recreativo Huelva in the friendly tournament “Columbino”. On September 3, 2000, he played his first official match for Betis against Compostela at the San Lázaro stadium.
Over the next five seasons, Joaquin played in almost every game for Betis, recording over 200 matches. In the 2004/05 season, Betis won the Copa del Rey with Joaquin in the squad. His strong performances led to interest from Chelsea, but no transfer to Stamford Bridge was made.
In the following campaign, Joaquin played in every match for Betis in the group stage of the Champions League, facing Liverpool, Chelsea, and Anderlecht, and finished in third place, earning a spot in the UEFA Cup. At the end of the season, the “verdiblancos” reached an agreement for his transfer to Valencia.
Valencia purchased Joaquin for €25 million, making him the most expensive transfer in the club’s history at the time. In his first season at Mestalla, he played 35 matches, scoring 5 goals, and the team qualified for the Champions League. His second campaign at Valencia was not the most successful in La Liga, but the team won the Copa del Rey. Valencia finished in ninth place in the league, followed by sixth place in the 2008/09 season. With the departure of David Villa, who made a transfer to Barcelona in the summer of 2010, Joaquin received the No. 7 shirt. Valencia finished third in La Liga and was eliminated in the round of 16 in the Champions League by Schalke.
The club fell into an economic crisis and began selling its best players, including Joaquin. With one year remaining on his contract, the transfer fee could not be high, and he was sold for €4.5 million to Malaga, where he spent two seasons. He played in 60 official matches for the club, which was owned by Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser Al Thani at the time and made significant investments.
In the first season at La Rosaleda, Joaquin’s team finished fourth in the league and qualified for the Champions League for the first time in their history. The season at Euromalaga was impressive, but the club failed due to huge debts and was forced to sell for €2 million to Fiorentina in the summer of 2013.
He also stayed at Artemio Franchi for two more years. He reached the semi-finals in the Europa League. In the 2013/14 season, La Viola finished fourth in Serie A and lost the final of the Italian Cup to Napoli. In the following campaign, Fiorentina finished fourth again and were knocked out in the semi-finals of the Europa League, which was especially painful for Joaquin as it was against Betis’ arch-rivals, Sevilla.
His big comeback at Benito Villamarin was on August 31, 2015, just hours before the transfer window closed. Over 20,000 Betis fans were present at his presentation. He had a very strong performance, especially in the 2017/18 season. Joaquin strengthened his relationship with the club by purchasing shares worth €1,100,000, making him the fourth largest shareholder in the company. He won another Copa del Rey in the 2021/22 season, scoring the decisive penalty in the final against Valencia.
Joaquin also had a successful career in the Spanish national team, playing in 51 matches and scoring 4 goals.
Now, Joaquin only has one task left, which is to become the footballer with the most appearances in the Spanish league. Whether this will happen remains to be seen. However, time has already shown that he is a legend and will remain in the history of football in Spain. He will forever hold a place in the hearts of Betis fans.