From not willing to go to La Masia to not willing to leave Camp Nou. That just sums up 21 years of the incredible career of Andrés Iniesta’s at Barcelona.
The Spaniard in a press conference on Friday confirmed that he will be leaving the club at the end of the season. The news didn’t come as a shock to be honest because after the exit of Blaugrana from the UEFA Champions League following a defeat from AS Roma. It was quite evident that the Barcelona midfielder is going to leave the club after this season. In the press conference, the 33-year-old midfielder also ended all the speculations of him linking to Manchester City and other European clubs next season. According to Independent, Iniesta said, “The only thing I have always said is I would never compete against my club, so all scenarios that are not in Europe are possible”, The Spanish midfielder hasn’t confirmed anything about future, but he is continuously linked with a move to China.
The Catalans midfielder came to La Masia at the age of 12 and since then it’s just been an astonishing journey. According to Goal.com, Iniesta was playing in Nike Cup at the age of 15, this was the first time when Pep Guardiola witnessed him playing. During the game, Guardiola told Xavi “You will retire me, but this kid will retire us both”, Well the former Barcelona manager was right about himself, but not Xavi because the former Iniesta partner still plays for Al Sadd SC in Qatar.
Iniesta made his debut for first-team in 2002 and since then he has never looked back. During 2005/2006 season Xavi got injured and the Spaniard became the regular starter for Barça across all competitions. The Spanish midfielder kept developing his game in all aspects because of which he played in various positions for Frank Rijkaard in 2006/2007 season. The 32-year-old midfielder never said no to any position. In Champions League under Rijkaard, the Blaugrana midfielder played as the winger and as a midfielder. In this particular season, Don Andrés scored nine goals which was his highest goal scoring season for the Catalans. Under the former Dutch footballer, Iniesta earned approbation for his astonishing performances and for always keeping team first before himself.
There is no doubt that Don Andrés was one of the best midfielders ever played for Camp Nou outfit. His partnership with Xavi in the midfield is still considered as one of the deadliest partnerships. The way in which both controlled the game from midfield was astounding. Also, under Guardiola, both these players began tiki-taka playing style which eventually became the identity of Blaugrana. In addition, Iniesta along with former Spain midfielder has helped Lionel Messi in thriving during his early stages in career. The assortment of all three players together has won a lot of trophies for the Catalans. In 2010, all three of them were chosen as the top-three players for the FIFA Ballon d’ Or. Moreover, Iniesta was the key behind the club’s success treble win in 2009 and 2015.
Even though I’m not a Barcelona supporter but I do honor the Spanish midfielder and that is because of his playing style and contributions that he made for his club and country. Iniesta had the tendency to perform in big games be it for his country or club. For many Barça fans, Andres’ favorite moment in career would be his stoppage-time winning strike against Chelsea in the Champions League final. But my favorite moment from Barcelona’s midfielder career is the World Cup-winning goal against the Netherlands in 2010 final.
The way in which Iniesta makes up space for himself on the field is just startling. Also, his vision to find an unmarked player and to play through balls from traffic just sets him apart from all others. He has always stood up and performed for his club in crucial games. According to the Telegraph, before the Champions League final against Manchester United, Sir Alex Ferguson said, “Iniesta is the biggest Barça threat”, Don Andrés was suffering from thigh injury during finals, but despite the injury, he played and provided winning assist to Samuel Eto and proved the greatest United manager statement correct.
In almost 700 appearances for the Catalans, the 32-year-old midfielder has scored 57 goals and assisted another 141 for his club. Although, the numbers are not that incredible the services that the Spanish midfielder has provided to Blaugrana is nothing less than incredible. Even though Xavi left Barcelona in 2015, there was not a single time when we heard that the Catalans have a problem in Midfield. The Spaniard always kept the Barça’s midfield intact and always took them forward with himself. The 32-year-old had an amazing pace with the ball and always gave his attackers freedom to move forward. The Spanish midfielder with the help of his dribbling has broken ankles of many opponents and ended careers of few as well. Don Andrés won four Champions League titles, eight La Liga titles, five Spanish Cups, six Spanish Super Cup, three FIFA Club World Cup and 3 UEFA Super Cup with the Blaugrana. The number of trophies just shows that why we call him Barcelona’s legend and one of the best midfielders in the world.
It will be difficult for Barcelona to find the replacement of Iniesta in the midfield. The way in which he controlled the midfield was just astounding and to find a replacement for someone of that level is going to be a hard task. Even though the Barcelona legend is leaving the club, but he will always be respected and remembered for his services for the Catalans
Adios Don Andrés!