The Shadow Hunter

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
Nationality: Spain
Height: 170cm (5ft 7in)
Trophies: 18

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Written by:

Isaiah is a co-founder and lead writer for Barcelona Football Blog. He currently lives in Germany with his wife and daughter.


  1. blitzen
    February 24, 2012

    Lovely article on my favourite player of all time. To its credit, the club always recognized Iniesta’s immense talent. There was a reason he was brought in as (at the time) the youngest player in La Masia. There were concerns about his lack of size and strength, however. I never liked Louis Van Gaal, but I will always be grateful to him for seeing the quality in players like Iniesta and Xavi and giving them a chance in the first team.

    There is an interview with a young Cesc Fabregas, then a member of Barça’s Infantil A team, where they ask him to name his football idols. He names Guardiola, of course, but also Andres Iniesta who at the time was only a Cadete A player. Already his peers knew he was going to be something special.

    Also, people always talk about Iniesta as being quiet, modest, humble, ect. He is all those things, but he has another side to his personality as well. He is immensely stubborn and determined to succeed. Even though he suffered terribly from homesickness and was given the option to leave La Masia and come back the next year, he knew he needed to be there and stuck it out. Underneath that calm exterior is a fierce and focussed competitor.

    • mom4
      February 24, 2012

      My third favorite player after Xavi and Messi (there’s about a 15-way tie for my 4th favorite player).
      My memory of Iniesta starts with is his absence in my first season of watching. My friends told of of this amazing midfielder who worked so well with Xavi and sad to say I just couldn’t see it that first year (09/10) because of his injuries. Then came the world cup and that second season and I thought wow, I’m sure glad he’s ours because he’s making those defenders look really silly.

    • swamidigital
      February 25, 2012

      I’m reading Graham Hunter’s book on Barca, and this quote came to mind when I read your comment about Iniesta’s stubborness and will to succeed:

      ” A phrase Andres Iniesta used to Luis Martin of El Pais the day before the match caught my eye. …Iniesta replied: ‘Exactly, there is a commitment which goes way beyond well now. It might not be our day, but we will never lose for a lack of trying to make it our day.’ “

      • swamidigital
        February 25, 2012

        Should have been ‘way beyond playing well now’

        I left out the ‘playing’ when I first typed it up.

  2. hansh
    February 24, 2012

    I swear to god, Iniesta is a dancer who ended up on a soccer field by accident and stayed just for fun. He can vaporize himself and the ball and show up on the other side of defenders. Then send a ball through 5 defenders so someone else can score. All while chatting with Xavi telepathically. He’s magic.

    And that touch against Real Madrid, at 1:25 of the second video? I’ve seen it dozens of times and I still have no idea how he pulled it off without getting his ankles crushed.

  3. February 24, 2012

    He actually looks tan in the croqueta vid, which we all know to be a lie.

  4. February 24, 2012

    Beautiful writing Isaiah, but no ode about Iniesta is complete without this gem from Jason [@ElShowDeJason over at Twitter], after the epic Iniestazo against Chelsea (During theoffside days –

    Special News Update:

    London Police is currently looking for one Andres “The Don” Iniesta aka Ghostface Killah

    The man is wanted for commiting 06 crimes on the evening of Wednesday, May 6th, 2009.

    1. Breaking and Entering (The Stamford Bridge)
    2. Assault (of the Chelsea Backline repeatedly)
    3. Battery (of the the football. into the back of the net)
    4. Theft (of passage to the CL final from Chelsea)
    5. Hit and Run (after the incident, the man was seen removing an artcile of clothing[presumably to evade detection], then fleeing the scene of the crime into a crowd of accomplices.)
    6. Inciting Riots (in Bars all over London, and Barcelona)

    In addition to the events that transpired tonight, he is believed to be connected with similar crimes in the the greater Madrid and Valencia metro areas. He is thought to also been involved in the attacks in Barcelona of tourists going through the city, but Barcelona’s Authorities are not complying with the effort to apprehend the assailant.

    Andres Iniesta is 1′70 tall and 85 kg (Prolly 65 tho). He is ussually seen along with Xavier Hernandez Creus. Both of whom are known enforcers for Mob boss Josep Guardiola who has terrorized Spain, and is starting to gain ground in Europe.

    If you have any additional information please inform [Interpol].

    He’s Our Hero, indeed!

    • Humphrey Bogart
      February 25, 2012

      I must say that is outstanding and absolutly fitting for a player of this stature (in football that is)

  5. simple_barcafan
    February 24, 2012

    The person responsible for a baby boom lol.I mean how many players can have such an honor…

  6. say2
    February 24, 2012

    beautifully written Isaiah…my second fav player after messi…long live don andres<3

  7. Chiu
    February 25, 2012

    I love the statement about Iniesta would retire both Pep and Xavi. The only negative of Iniesta is injury prone. Nice article Isaiah

  8. lyd
    February 25, 2012

    “You will retire me, but he will retire us both.”

    – as in both as a player and as a manager? 😛

    • Chiu
      February 25, 2012

      I think retire them as a player only, Iniesta is too quiet to be a coach (perhaps introvert type of person) 🙂

      • lyd
        February 25, 2012

        That was cule-ishly cute:)
        Of course i meant to ask a rhetorical question.

        but hey, dont count “the brain” out as a potential manager yet! just imagine his half time talk, perhaps with that bear and an angry panda from the commercials by his side 🙂

        more, xavi-don might just give pep-tito a run for their money.

        • Chiu
          February 26, 2012

          Xavi – coach / Iniesta – assistant coach

          Pretty good combination for future Barca. Worth a try haha 🙂

  9. lyd
    February 25, 2012

    what if he never caught that injury in 09/10? wonder what would have followed. He was in such a sublime form!

    A true cult hero! and one of those who consistently and truly graced the pitch.

    Thank you Iniesta.

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