There are two memories of Andres Iniesta indelibly etched on my mind – scoring a last minute goal against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in a 2008/09 UEFA Champions League semi-final and scoring the winning goal for Spain against the Netherlands at the 2010 World Cup.
He is a player who is much more than the goals he scored or the trophies he won.
He is a champion human being! Loved by Catalans and opponents, he is one of only a few players that opposition could not just hate. The captain of Barcelona’s fiercest rivals, Real Madrid, Sergio Ramos told Cadena Cope, “If he was called Andresinho instead of Iniesta, he would have won two Ballon d’Or titles.” And his skills in a team should have won him this accolade.
Zinedine Zidane said Iniesta should have won the Ballon d’Or in 2010 after helping Spain win the World Cup.
“We’re talking about someone who made everyone dream and he deserved to win the Ballon d’Or, especially in the year he won the World Cup. It was clear then that he deserved it.”
On Friday, April 27, 2018, the baby-faced assassin announced he would leave Barcelona at the end of the 2017/18 season after a love affair that lasted 22 years. He was in tears as he weaved the sentences together – “This press conference is to announce publicly my decision that this season will be my last here.
“It’s a decision I have given a lot of time and thought to on a personal level and with the family,” he began, as he fought the tears.
“There’s no need for people to say they want me to stay. I have always made it clear to the club I wanted to control my ‘stages’ in life and to be as honest as possible with myself and the club. It’s the main reason towards understanding that my time here is at an end.
“I don’t want to kid anyone. Soon, I’ll be 34 and I have given everything over the year. Being honest with myself and with the club that has given me everything, I understand my time here is done due to the simple fact that Club that welcomed me at 12 years of age deserves the best of me,” he added.
“I know what it means to play here year after year and the demands in every sense of the word. I know what the responsibility means to be captain at this club.”
One time manager, Pep Guardiola, was quoted to have told Xavi when he saw Iniesta that he would retire them both.
The Manchester City manager admitted he learned a lot just watching Iniesta. “I learned a lot just from being around him, seeing him train and watching how easily he did things and what was most impressive was how natural he was.
“He did things with perfection too and simply had a natural gift that is incomparable.”
Another former manager, Louis Van Gaal, also used choice words in describing the 33-year-old. “I’m very glad that Iniesta has had this brilliant career. Not only because he is a great player but because he is an excellent human being.
“That is something which, in the world of football today, is not easy.”
And he showed why he has been called a great human being because even when the stage was exclusively his on Friday, he afforded Barcelona’s greatest ever player, Lionel Messi, a candid accolade.
“It’s been an honour to share a dressing room with Leo Messi. We have had unique, magical moments with him at our side. There will never be anyone else like him.”
“I’d like to be remembered for being a great footballer and a great person,” Iniesta added. He is assured of being champion; championing all those values we rate highly – hard work, humility, and respect for the opponent.
The only flamboyance for Iniesta was maybe pulling off his jersey after scoring important goals. He is pulling off the Barcelona jersey for good at the end of the season; the task of Barcelona’s next No.8 is a very daunting one because of the big-sized boots being left behind.
Enjoy some Iniesta moments here: