A long-awaited dream is due to come true for Turkish Airlines EuroLeague fans as legendary center Pau Gasol is set to play in his trademark No. 16 FC Barcelona jersey for the first time in 20 years on Friday night.
After a team practice on Thursday evening, Gasol announced his intention to play against FC Bayern Munich in Round 34 of the regular season, the last game before first-place Barcelona gets ready for the EuroLeague Playoffs starting on Tuesday, April 20.
Before Thursday's practice, his current head coach and former teammate, Sarunas Jasikevicius, said he expects to use Gasol in Friday's game.
"Pau feels good. He is raising his rhythm in practice and doing better," Jasikevicius said. "I think he is comfortable here and I believe that yes, right now, we are thinking of giving him some minutes. But like I said before, we don't know in which way or how many minutes. We will take this decision in the next 24 hours."
Gasol has been sidelined for more than two years due to a foot injury. His last game was with Milwaukee in the NBA against New Orleans on March 12, 2019. Gasol started his career with FC Barcelona and played in the original 2000-01 EuroLeague campaign. His last game in the competition was against Muller Verona at Palau Blaugrana on December 20, 2000. No other player has ever gone more than 20 years between EuroLeague appearances.
In those two decades, Gasol established himself as one of the biggest winners in basketball history. He captured the NBA championship twice with the Los Angeles Lakers and, with the Spanish national team, raised the 2006 World Cup trophy, won gold medals at three EuroBasket tournaments, and took home Olympic medals from Beijing in 2008, London in 2012 and Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
Gasol teased his comeback on social media earlier this week, asking fans for a pre-game playlist to listen to. "Any song that you would like to hear before a moment you have been waiting for a long time?" he wrote.
A couple of days later, Pau tweeted a Spotify list with the best suggestions. "Here is the playlist with all of your suggestions. Thanks a lot for all the recommendations," he replied. "And now, let's way for that 'epic moment' to arrive!"