One can only truly appreciate art once it’s been finished, but as Andrés Iniesta applies the final touches to his magnificent body of work, let’s take a moment to acknowledge the man behind the craft.
A Generational Talent
Andrés Iniesta is often portrayed as an undersized, elegant playmaker with an unrivaled passing range. While that is undoubtedly accurate, seeing him as just a diminutive maestro is doing him a disservice.
The 37-year-old has grit, determination, and an engine that lasted the full 90 and beyond in his prime. Because of his intelligence, he’s never had to rely solely on athleticism to get the job done. He is, in many ways, the whole package—a playmaker and box-to-box midfielder rolled into one.
The Spaniard has never been a goalscoring threat, but he has always come through in the clutch. From scoring in the 1999 Nike Cup final as a 15-year-old to putting it in the back of the net at the 93rd minute in that infamous Champions League semi-final win against Chelsea and culminating in him scoring the all-important goal in the 2010 World Cup final against the Netherlands, he has always performed on the big stage.
From Doubt To Greatness
During his early days at Barça, Andrés Iniesta often felt lonely and underappreciated. Having to coexist with world-class midfielder Xavier Hernández (a.k.a., Xavi), who later would become his partner in crime, always seemed to diminish Iniesta’s value through the eyes of fans.
People questioned whether a system with two small playmakers could work. Still, the two complemented each other perfectly and developed an almost telepathic understanding that allowed them to dominate the field.
If Xavi was the heartbeat of that Barcelona team, then Andrés Iniesta was the brain. The two made Barça tick and helped turn it into an unstoppable juggernaut.
Andrés Iniesta Swan Song
Close to retirement, Andrés Iniesta is applying the last strokes of the brush on the canvas that is his illustrious career. Now competing in Japan with Vissel Kobe, he has recently signed a new two-year deal to continue playing soccer until 39 years of age.
In Barcelona, he was part of arguably the greatest club team ever to grace the soccer pitch, winning trophy after trophy and playing awe-inspiring football. For Spain, he performed a vital role in achieving the unprecedented: capturing the World Cup and winning back-to-back European Championships.
Even with peers like Lionel Messi and Xavi, Andrés Iniesta is easily one of the greatest artists of his generation. He is pure fútbol. And we couldn’t wait for El Ilusionista to finish his masterpiece before we paid our respects.
Main Image: Clément Bucco-Lechat