Team Spotlight: Barcelona and Andres IniestaMay 19, 2018
The two go hand in hand together like cheese and biscuits or Spain and tapas.
Over the past 22 years, the Catalan club and their fans have watched Andres Iniesta blossom from a 12-year-old academy hopeful into one of the greatest and most influential players of all time.
Success has never been too far away for the midfielder either as this season’s La Liga and Copa del Rey double make it 31 trophies for the Spaniard.
The end of Iniesta at Barcelona
Yet, all good things must come to an end and the end is nigh for 34-year-old Iniesta playing in the Blaugrana colours with Barcelona’s final game of the season against Real Sociedad the last time he will get to perform for the Catalan side, fittingly in front of the Camp Nou faithful.
The game on Sunday will not signal his retirement, as he plans to head to Russia for the World Cup with Spain this summer, while he continues to look for a move to another club, as long as it is not in Europe for fear that he could be on the opposing side to the team he holds so dear to his heart.
It is not a surprise that with Xavi and Lionel Messi alongside him, Iniesta became a part of one of greatest teams of all-time at the turn of the decade with the trio peaking in 2010 when they made up the three finalists of the Ballon d’Or award, with the Argentine claiming the title.
While his fame that year may have been largely due to scoring the winning goal in the World Cup final for Spain, his feats for Barcelona were not far behind.
Just a couple of months before his strike against Holland in South Africa, Iniesta was lifting the La Liga title for a fourth time. 18 months later, Barcelona were ending 2011 in possession of five trophies, just two years after winning the famous Sextuple.
And of course, Iniesta was a key cog in those squads. Often quietly going about his business, the former Albacete youth talent was never blessed with raw pace like Messi, nor did he have the height and strength of fellow Barca midfielder Sergio Busquets.
But Iniesta has vision. He has the ability to find space, whether with the ball at his feet or without it. He knows where his teammates are to set them up. And if he ever got surrounded by a group of opponents, for example against Italy at the 2012 European Championships when five Azzurri players were focussed on him, he still finds a way to get out with quick turns and incredible ball control.
Just to clarify, Iniesta and his gifts are still very much with us. Football fans will still have their chance to watch him. It is just that he will be playing in Spain or even Europe after this summer’s World Cup.
Having declared his worst nightmare being to play against Barcelona, he has already stated he will move away from the continent. China had been mooted, but it appears Vissel Kobe in Japan has taken his fancy.
With the midfield maestro also expected to retire from international football after this summer’s showpiece, Sunday’s match against Real Sociedad will likely be the last time Iniesta will play on European soil.
The 99,354-seater Camp Nou will almost be guaranteed to be sold out, not because it will be the last time this season that Barca fans will see their side, but because every single fan in country, whether a Cule or not, will want to say goodbye to one of the greatest ever.
And you can bet there will not be a dry eye anywhere in the stadium or amongst Barcelona supporters worldwide when he leaves the pitch for the last time.