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“I get the feeling people respect me and that there is affection for me. That makes me happy.”
After 22 years at Barcelona in some capacity, Andrés Iniesta will leave the club at the end of the season. A tearful Iniesta told a press conference “My only aim was to be a success at this club and I have done that.”The 33-year-old Spaniard is expected to go to China next season, and finished his Barcelona career in typical style, with a 5-0 victory in the Copa del Rey final.
The story of Andrés Iniesta intertwines with the story of the footballing doctrines which begat him. These are doctrines which emphasised one touch football, total possession, fluidity of position and, above all else, the promotion of young talent from within. Where these ideals originate is debatable but what is clear is that in 1974 Dutch legend Johan Cryuff brought them to Barcelona like a mad, religious zealot brandishing sacred fire.
The blueprints for the La Masia system are modeled upon those of the world-famous Ajax academy where a unilateral approach in terms of style and formation is instilled at every age-level of the club. As the young Iniesta rapidly made his way through the various levels of the Barcelona system like a PCP-infused Mario avatar, his style of play never changed and only became more refined. Thus when he finally broke into the first-team in 2004, Iniesta style of play matched delectably with a side of already world-class players.
When he matched with Xavi during Spain’s Euro 2008 and it coincided with the coronation of Pep Guardiola as Barcelona manager and provided the new coach with the perfect framework upon which to pitch his Leo Messi-orientated side. From here on, the Barcelona story becomes relatively simple. Xaviesta passed sides to death. Lionel Messi scored again and again and again. Trophies were awarded to Barcelona via standing order.
List of Iniesta’s Barcelona honours
La Liga: 2004–05, 2005–06, 2008–09, 2009–10, 2010–11, 2012–13, 2014–15, 2015–16, 2017-18 (pending)
Copa del Rey: 2008–09, 2011–12, 2014–15, 2015–16, 2016–17, 2017–18
Supercopa de España: 2005, 2006, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2016
UEFA Champions League: 2005–06, 2008–09, 2010–11, 2014–15
UEFA Super Cup: 2009, 2011, 2015
FIFA Club World Cup: 2009, 2011, 2015
9x FIFA FIFPro World XI
6x UEFA Team of the Year
2x Top 3 Ballon d’Or
UEFA Best Player in Europe: 2012