The brilliance of Andres Iniesta
Every football fanatic will remember that iconic goal on 11th July 2010 in Johannesburg. The moment when time stopped, where every cell of your body paused, the first touch that lifted the Jabulani and subsequently slammed it into the back of the net.
There's a reason why Iniesta is respected and always receives a standing ovation whether he exits or enters the pitch. It's not just because of that iconic goal, no.
Not only because of his mesmerizing skills. It's also because he is a true gentleman of the sport. Humble and loyal in a time where these two traits are one of the rarest. He is one of those players that literally do their talking on the pitch.
He arrived at Barcelona at the tender age of twelve, was very homesick, and missed his family greatly. But, life always forces you to move on and keep fighting and as we all know, the rest is history.
The former Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque said:
"it would be an injustice if Iniesta finishes his career without winning the Ballon d'Or".
He would have definitely won it In 2010 if it wasn't for Lionel Messi. The fact that it was Messi who kept the trophy off the don's cabinet speaks volumes. In early 2008, the Blaugrana were struggling in Guardiola's debut season and things hadn't start off well.
Two weeks into the beginning of the season and they still hadn't won. The pressure was building, the fans were anxious and very critical of the performance.
It was a new and fresh Barcelona with many La Masia graduates. The legendary Johan Cruyff was one of the only people who backed this coach and his young squad. And suddenly, the tables turned. Barcelona started winning and not just winning in terms of the scoreboard, they dominated the opposition in every area of the pitch.
It was indeed a different and unique type of football that the world never saw before.This team made an irrelevant statistic, relevant. "Possession". This was the key statistic to that side and it showed that they were not only winning but winning with style.
Xavi was already recognised as an integral part of the squad. During a training session, Pep Guardiola spoke to Xavi saying,
"You will retire me, and this young lad (Iniesta) will retire us both."
He was already known as a "Wonderkid" since his arrival, and he lived up to the expectation brilliantly. The midfield combination between Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets were destructive and beautiful to watch, at the same time.
They owned that midfield and were the "Trident" Of Barcelona before the famous "M.S.N" joined the party. They were key players in a top team where there was a lot of pressure on them to perform and they did, consistently.
As far as Iniesta's technical ability is concerned, one could agree that he is one of the greatest players of all time. Compared to the likes of Zidane, Pirlo and Johann Cruyff, he is not the strongest player, neither the fastest but what makes him very effective is that he is always calm and collected.
Someone once said that Iniesta is a player who will be calm as ever under pressure even if he is playing on Mars. His favourite signature move "La Croqueta" has been very effective for escaping tight areas and two defenders. Also, as always, it has been very pleasing to the eye.
It's almost as if he can read the defenders' minds. Iniesta is not the strongest, nor the fastest player but he uses his body to protect the ball very effectively and that either draws a foul or provides more space, opening up space for a pass.
This is also due to his high intelligence on the pitch. A centre midfielder is a player who knows when to run at the defense, cut inside, play one-twos, pick a pass to the player who is higher up the pitch, switch the play to the opposite side of the field or even know when to play a safe, low-risk pass to the centreback or the fullback behind.
All this has to be calculated before the opposition player pressures you or attempts a tackle and Iniesta does this with brilliance and makes it look much easier than it actually is. He is truly a genius and a master at his art. It is almost a guarantee that when he receives the ball, he will not lose it. This builds confidence and trust in his teammates, which in turn sets the example.
Messi spoke about him in an extract from the book "The Artist: Being Iniesta", saying:
"When you're a kid playing on the streets, you take onboard things that are very useful to you later. You get used to playing with older players and not changing your game because of that, you play your way. Andrés and I are similar in that we both use our bodies a lot, to avoid opponents. But he has something that always amazes me,there's always a moment when you think you're going to catch him, when you think you're going to get the ball off him, but you can't. He's not especially quick, but he has that ability to always get away from you, which comes from his technique."
Time is money, that's true, but age is a currency we hate counting when it comes to football, when it comes to a player that inspires you. Players retire and a new generation rises up to fill the shoes of the old. However, even at this age of 33, he still performs well and is still a key player for the team.
Even in the last match against Sporting C.P, he had some neat touches and often spear-headed the attack. It also looks like he will be signing a new contract after all. He hinted that "the good news is coming soon." Whatever it may be, he will always remain as "The Illusionist" of Barcelona and let's hope the wonderful career goes on for many years.