Football | Iniesta calls time on Barcelona career


“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.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C_OaKYKUKWI

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

 




With Barcelona providing the most sizable contingent to the Spanish national side, it probably not surprising that their successes mirror each other during this period. However there is of course one major difference between the sides: Leo Messi isn’t Spanish. This is where Iniesta’s contribution takes on a greater importance. Unlike his fellow midfielders Xavi, Busquets and Alonso, Andres Iniesta is blessed with the ability to change the pace of a game in an instant.

His capacity to dribble proved crucial in a side whose propensity to pass themselves into complacency was demonstrable upon more than one occasion. It’s not a coincidence that Iniesta was awarded the Man of the Match award in both the 2010 World Cup Final and the 4-0 victory over Italy in the Euro 2012 showpiece. The Spanish national side has enjoyed one of the most dominant periods of any side in international history and Iniesta has been their key figure throughout. And he has done it by both espousing the beneficial aspects of tika-taka football more than anyone but also by tempering its more self-indulgent excesses.

This article was adapted from Gregory McNally’s article from The Season Ticket’s Top 50 Greatest of the 21st Century. For more information, check this link