LYON, France (Reuters) - Atletico Madrid forward Fernando Torres ended his long wait for a trophy with the club where he has spent the bulk of his career when the Spanish side won the Europa League by beating Olympique de Marseille 3-0 on Wednesday.
Torres, whose second spell with his beloved Atletico finishes at the end of this season when his contract expires, replaced double goalscorer Antoine Griezmann in the 90th minute and lifted the trophy together with captain Gabi.
He had a beaming grin on his face as he walked alone towards the Atletico supporters, holding the trophy aloft with one hand.
Torres has supported Atletico since he was five years old and joined their academy when he was a child, making his first-team debut at the age of 17 in 2001 when they were in Spain’s second division.
“It’s difficult to explain how happy I feel after so much time, it was a dream I’ve always had since I was a child,” Torres told reporters.
“I feel so proud to belong to this group, which has changed the lives of so many Atletico fans. Before we had to explain why we wore this shirt. I dedicate this to all the fans that came here and all the ones that are waiting for us in Madrid.”
Torres had not come close to picking up any silverware when he bade farewell to Atletico in a tear-filled news conference in 2007 to announce he had signed for Premier League side Liverpool.
He was still in England when Atletico snapped a 14-year trophy drought by beating Fulham 2-1 to win the 2010 Europa League and was at Chelsea when his former club won five trophies in two years under coach Diego Simeone, the crowning jewel being the 2014 La Liga title.
Torres returned to Atletico in 2015 and narrowly missed out on a dream triumph in the 2016 Champions League final against Real Madrid as his side were beaten on penalties by their bitter city rivals.
“On a sentimental level this is the most important trophy to me,” added Torres, who won the Champions League, FA Cup and Europa League with Chelsea and the World Cup and two European Championships with Spain.
“I’ve been lucky to win a lot but when you have dreamt about something since you were a child it’s different. This was my dream, to win with my team and I’ve been able to achieve it.”
Torres, 34, will play his last game for Atletico on Sunday at home to Eibar.
“On a personal level he will feel so much pride, so much excitement after making a dream he had searched for for so long a reality,” Simeone said.
“On Sunday the stadium will explode and there will be a huge party for him after everything he’s done for the club and how he feels about it.
“I never gave him anything, he’s the only player here who won the World Cup but he has had to work for everything and he leaves a very good legacy for other players to learn from.”
Reporting by Richard Martin, editing by Ed Osmond