“The Artist” – Andres Iniesta

When we think FC Barcelona there are few faces that we associate with the club as much as this man, his name is Andres Iniesta also referred to as “The Artist” of Barcelona and one of the most celebrated players in Spain.

On his 36th birthday, we take a peek into his journey which has left numerous football fans around the world in awe of the person and the footballer.

Andrés Iniesta Luján in full was born in a small village in the province of Albacete, Spain. He began playing for Albacete juniors at age 8, and at age 12 he was spotted by leading club scouts while playing in the Brunete Tournament. He soon moved the Catalonian capital and enrolled himself at at La Masia, FC Barcelona’s youth academy because of his family’s link with the club and then there was no looking back. He was groomed through Barcelona’s various levels, though he didn’t have the physical attributes of a striker but his ability to control and accurately distribute the ball fitted him ideally for a midfield role, either defending or attacking.

After spending a considerable time at the academy and being a part of the Barcelona B squad for three seasons. It was finally on December 21, 2002 that Iniesta made his La Liga debut for the Barcelona Senior Squad against Mallorca. But he got introduced to European Football in October of the same year when Barcelona played against Belgium’s FC Bruges in the UEFA Champions League. Iniesta became a permanent first team member only in the 2004-05 season which marked the beginning of a journey matched by only a few at the club which includes his mid-field partner XAVI, Carles Puyol and still a part of the squad Gerard Pique. The journey finally ended with 442 games for the club and 35 goals before making a move to Japan’s Vissel Kobe in 2018.

Iniesta played an instrumental role in winning nine La Liga championships, six Copa del Rey (2009, 2012, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018), seven Spanish Super Cups (2005–06, 2009–11, 2013, 2016), four Champions League titles (2006, 2009, 2011, 2015), and three each of the UEFA Super Cup (2009, 2011, 2015) and FIFA Club World Cup (2009, 2011, 2015) trophies. The 2008-09 was the most illustrious of the mid-fielder’s club career which included the first ever treble by a Spanish club under the guidance of Manager Pep Guardiola when they won the Champions League, Copa Del Rey and the La Liga title. It was also Pep Guardiola’s first season as a manager and also the beginning of the dominance of the Barcelona mid-field in European club football.

His international career for Spain was also one to be envied about. He made his debut in a friendly against Russia on May 27, 2020 aged 22 years and was later called up to the FIFA World Cup Squad taking part in Germany. Though, Spain lost to France by a scoreline of 3-1 in Round of 16 it was the beginning of a Spanish team in which Iniesta sat at the heart of the mid-field.

With Iniesta at the heart of the mid-field along with Barcelona teammate XAVI, Spain went onto dominate world football for a long period of time winning the UEFA Euro 2008, FIFA World Cup 2010 and UEFA Euro 2012. But what engraved ‘The Artist’s’ name in history was the winning goal in the 2010 World Cup final against Netherlands and unless Spain wins another world cup there will not be a second memory that will be as cherished in the minds of each and every Spanish football and Iniesta fan. His illustrious career was filled with a number of individual accolades which included the likes of UEFA’s Best Player in Europe for 2011–12 and many more.

Spain’s amazing run finally ended at the 2014 World Cup, where the squad handily lost its first two games and was eliminated from the tournament. After disappointing in round-of-16 eliminations for Spain at the 2016 European Championships and the 2018 World Cup, Iniesta retired from international football.

Though, it wasn’t the best ending that Iniesta would have hoped for but we are rest assured that for years to come whenever the football world will go down the memory lane and remember Spain’s golden era in football, Andres Iniesta’s name will always remain etched in golden letters.

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