This is the first in a series of player profiles to be published on BFB. We’re starting with Iniesta simply because it’s the first one to have been completed. Enjoy.
Besides wondering where he gets his impeccable tans, the thing most people think of when they think of Andrés Iniesta is Pep Guardiola talking about him to someone else. It’s as if Iniesta is somewhere in the background even when you’re praising him. Guardiola, on seeing Iniesta play in the 1999 Nike Premier Cup in Barcelona, a youth tournament organized by the athletic wear company and since rebranded as the Manchester United Premier Cup, said to Xavi, “You will retire me, but he will retire us both.”
Iniesta was born in Fuentealbilla, a small village in the southeastern, landlocked province of Albacete, that, as they say, is a place with a distinct lack of things to do: “Albacete, caga y vete; y si llevas qué comer, no entres en él.” From such humble origins, an artist. Yet he is modest beyond measure, eschewing self-praise for discussions of teamwork. Barcelona’s official website says of him, “Iniesta is not only versatile, but also a true professional, being talented yet modest. Especially talented.”
Declared by Juan Roman Riquelme—that king of the sad pandas—to play the game the best, he is far from the egotistical showman that can develop alongside prodigious talent. It would be unfathomable for him to remind us of his existence after retirement by publishing a list of the best players simply because he would fail to include himself on it.
Yet he scored the World Cup-winning goal for Spain in extra time against Holland; he put Barcelona into the Champions League final in 2009 with his “Iniestazo,” a goal you could simply never script that, if you believe them, led to the rapture of several cules; and he’s effectively made fools of pretty much everyone who has faced him on the field since 2008. He is surrounded by more illustrious names, is outpaced and outmuscled, and is often forgotten by those outside the Barça orbit, but he has been named (deep breath):
Euro 2008 Team of the tournament
Don Balón Award for Best Spanish Player of the Year: 2009
FIFA World XI: 2009, 2010
La Liga’s Best Attacking Midfielder: 2009, 2011
UEFA Team of the Year: 2009, 2010
Ballon d’Or: 4th Place 2009, 2010
FIFA World Cup All-Star Team, 2010
FIFA World Cup Man Of The Match vs. Chile, Paraguay and Netherlands
Prince of Asturias Awards: 2010
FIFA Ballon d’Or: Second place 2010
Onze d’Or: Third place 2009, Second place 2010,
Those who know the game have come around to the understanding Guardiola had more than a decade ago: Andrés Iniesta is really good. He succeeds because of his talent, of course, but also benefits from his teammates attracting more attention. When he is given time and space, which is all too often for his opponents’ liking, he is deadly efficient. When he’s closed down, he often simply creates that space and time for himself with simple-looking, but completely impossible moves. He’s known for his croqueta, a move Michael Laudrup also had in his arsenal that involves passing the ball from your right foot to your left faster than is humanly possible. Lately, though, Iniesta has been known to flick the ball over his head and completely embarrass even the most defensively sound of opponents.
He joined Barcelona at the age of 11, often crying out of homesickness for his first few months. Then, as seems to be the case sometimes, he acclimated and set the place alight with his play. He was a defender to start, but quickly moved forward and became captain of his youth teams. In 4 years, he moved up to Barça B at the age of 16. In just two more years he got his debut for the first team, starting and playing 90 minutes of a Champions League match on October 29, 2002 against Belgian side Club Brugge.
By the end of 2004-05, he played the most minutes of anyone in the squad. In 2005-06 he took over for the injured Xavi and led the team to the league and Champions League double. His total list of trophies now stands at 18, with 5 league titles and 3 Champions Leagues under his belt. With such dominate statistics, it’s no wonder that he’s become one of the most sought after marketing brands in the world as well as the face of La Liga’s ad campaigns. He even befriends a bear in an ad for Spanish television station GolTV.
On the field, however, he remains more elusive, preferring to lurk in the shadows and capitalize on mistakes. He takes advantage of his seeming telepathic relationship with midfield partner Xavi in ways that continue to boggle the mind. As his career continues, Iniesta has set the bar extremely high, but still manages to surpass himself.
Andrés Iniesta Luján
Born: May 11, 1984
Height: 170cm (5ft 7in)