There is little more to add on Andres Iniesta that has not already been reeled out on numerous occasions during Barcelona's recent period of dominance. The Spaniard is one of the finest midfield technicians of modern times and his abilities have been showcased at the highest levels of the game for the past five years.
The 27-year-old had been tipped for stardom from an early age, with Barcelona legend and now manager Josep Guardiola famously telling a young Xavi: "You will retire me, but Iniesta will retire us both.” Iniesta may not have retired Xavi yet, but the two of them currently make-up the most feared midfield unit in football for both club and country, terrorizing opponents with their famed 'tiki-taka' style.
It is truly a thing of beauty as they slowly dismantle their opponents’ defensive structures by playing continuous short passes in the midfield until at some point a helpless defender is dragged out of position. Then, with a gap emerging, both Xavi and Iniesta are charged with supplying the defense-splitting pass that will seize upon the fault-line they have opened up with their earlier play. The strategy has led both Barcelona and Spain to unprecedented success.
Alongside future Spain teammate Fernando Torres, Iniesta was part of a successful youth generation who won the European Championship at Under-17 and U-19 level in the space of twelve months. Shortly after, first-team football came calling for the prodigious young midfielder and he has not looked back since, winning every trophy in the game over the last ten years.
It has not always been easy for the Spaniard, who nearly didn’t make it at Barcelona because of his homesickness and has often been shifted out of the center to make room for others for his country, but Iniesta has made up for those struggles with career-defining moments, such as his World Cup-winning goal in 2010.
Whilst Xavi may take the plaudits for his orchestration of the Spanish side, it is Iniesta who for club and country has stepped up with a defining contribution when most needed. En-route to World Cup glory, Iniesta picked up no less than three Man of the Match awards for his performances, including the award for the best player of the World Cup final. All eyes will be on Spain once more this summer, but if the Iberian giants are to retain their European Championship title, much will depend on Iniesta.
Expert's Take: As an attacking midfield player, the best there is. Incredibly skillful & creative. His vision & awareness & ability to combine with other technical players make him a constant threat to all teams & opponents. One of the top 5 players in the world. -- Robbie Mustoe
Stats That Matter:
• 10 career goals for Spain, including game-winning goal in extra time at 2010 World Cup final.
• Barcelona is undefeated in 46 of 48 matches in which Iniesta has played this season.
• Iniesta’s streak of 42 consecutive unbeaten matches with Barcelona was snapped by Chelsea in the Champions League semis.
• Played for Spain’s U-20 side that reached the 2003 FIFA World Youth Championship final in the United Arab Emirates, and was named to the All-Tournament team.
• Ninth in La Liga with 51 successful one-on-one take-ons in 2011-12.