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Legends in Review – Andrés Iniesta

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Andrés Iniesta was a one of a kind soccer player. No one has ever matched the Spanish midfielder’s technical ability and vision.

Iniesta was a player who signified an entire era of football for Spain and Barcelona. This was built around a philosophy of receiving the ball and passing the ball at quick pace, referred to as ‘tiki-taka’.

The Spanish magician stood out as a consistent performer among some of Barcelona greats, including compatriot Xavi and superstar Lionel Messi. Iniesta sustained a certain level of professionalism and greatness rarely seen in elite football.

Iniesta – The Early Days

Andrés Iniesta Luján was born in the small Spannish town of Albacete. From a young age, he had a passion for football and began playing for Albacete juniors from the age of eight.

However, it wasn’t long before Iniesta’s talent was recognised by giants Barcelona. He entered the Catalan club’s prestigious youth academy La Masia at the age of 12. Iniesta then rose through various youth levels at Barcelona before his supreme technical passing ability earned him a first-team call up when he was 18.

Barcelona – 674 Appearances – 57 Goals

Iniesta made his first Barcelona appearance in a La Liga fixture against Mallorca in December 2002. Although he was given a run in the first team following his debut, the talented midfielder made just six league appearances and featured in three Champions League matches in the remainder of the 2002/03 season.

Despite his rise to the first team, Iniesta spent the next two seasons on the periphary of the first team. His big breakthrough as a key Barcelona came in the 2004/05 season when he played 37 games, scored two goals and made five assists.

It was just the beginning for Iniesta and he won his first La Liga title in 2005. Eight more followed throughout his 16 year spell with the club including three consecutive league victories between 2008 and 2011.

The technically gifted midfielder was not just a key component of Barcelona’s domestic success. He played a role in four of the Catalan club’s Champions League wins between 2005 and 2015. One of his most vital moments came when he scored the equaliser against Chelsea from 20-yards in the 2008/09 semi-final.

Iniesta was not renowned for his goal-scoring ability. But his talent for setting up goals was unrivalled. He is the only player to assist a goal in three separate Champions League finals and ended his Barcelona career with 137 assists in all competitions.

The Barcelona legend had previously signed a contract for life with the Spanish club. But, in 2018, he decided to leave the Catalan team after celebrating his ninth La Liga title win and his sixth Copa Del Rey.

Vissel Kobe – 68 Appearances – 14 Goals

Iniesta swapped his prestigious Barcelona career for a change of pace as he entered the twilight of his career. The Spanish superstar signed a three-year contract with Japanese A-League team Vissel Kobe in 2018 and still plays here.

He has made a big impression. Iniesta was named captain of the club and has won the Emperor’s Cup and the Japanese Super Cup during his time with Kobe.

Spain National Team – 131 Appearances – 13 Goals

Similar to his rise through La Masia, Iniesta represented Spain from under-16 level until he earned his first senior call up at the age of 22 in 2006.

The classy midfielder did not look back and enjoyed an esteemed international career with Spain. Iniesta was part of an exciting generation of Spanish players, which included Xavi, David Villa, Fernando Torres, Carlos Puyol and Iker Casillas.

Iniesta won every major international honour available. In 2008, he lifted the European Championship after his team dominated the competition and won every match they played. Iniesta helped his country to a successive Euros in 2012 as Spain made history as the first team to defend the elite competition.

One of his most iconic moments came in the 2010 World Cup final in South Africa. A tense 0-0 match was played out between Spain and the Netherlands. As the game was deep into extra time, Iniesta found space in the area, controlled a pass from Cesc Fabregas and volleyed in the winning goal in dramatic fashion.

Style of Play

Although regarded as a modern playmaker, dictating the pace of a game, Iniesta offered so much more. His footballing intelligence to find space, pick near-impossible passes was a joy to watch. He made the game look effortless.

Iniesta was not just a once in a generation player, but a once in a lifetime player. He could control the ball with grace and weighted passes to an exceptional quality.

But, Iniesta was also a player who was capable of holding his nerve and producing on the big stage. His countless major honours in elite football are testament to his tough mentality as well as his incredible footballing ability.

Football Legacy

At the ripe old age of 36, Iniesta is still playing football in Kobe. He continues to make an impact on the game and does not look like he will retire yet.

A documentary on the rise of the former Barcelona player is currently in production with testimony from global superstars like Messi, Neymark and former manager Pep Guardiola. Being held in such high regard by these football icons highlights just how good a player Iniesta is.

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