Andre Iniesta is considered one of the greatest footballers to have come out of Spain but the only thing that is missing from his honours list is the prestigious Ballon d'Or.
A shy village boy who could not bear to leave his parents’ bed, Andres Iniesta may have seemed an unlikely candidate to become one of the best footballers of all time. But anyone who saw him play rarely had serious doubts.
Andres Iniesta, who turns 37 today, weaved his magic for Barcelona for 16 years. He is one of the architects of the club’s greatest era, playing a defining role as they won 32 trophies including nine Spanish titles and four Champions League crowns.
“This kid is going to retire us all,” said Pep Guardiola when he first watched a teenage Iniesta in action. Spanish coach Luis Enrique describes the diminutive midfielder as “Harry Potter, waving his wand”.
Coming from Fuentealbilla, Spain, Iniesta joined FC Barcelona at the age of 12. The Barca Blaugranes youth team coach Orizaola persuaded his parents to send him to La Masia. Iniesta captained the Barcelona U-15 team to victory in the Nike Premier Cup in 1999 at the age of 14. He scored the winning goal in the last minute of the final and was awarded the ‘Player of the Tournament’ award.
Iniesta was instrumental in Spain’s glory on the world stage. He helped them clinch the country’s finest sporting achievement. His extra-time goal against the Netherlands sealed victory in the 2010 World Cup final.
That cold-blooded strike in Johannesburg’s Soccer City Stadium forever endeared Iniesta to Spaniards. He earned standing ovations even when playing away to Barca’s sworn enemies Real Madrid and Espanyol.
Watching Iniesta gather the ball, execute a change of pace and set an attack underway has always remained one of the joys of the sport. It is poetry in motion. Simple yet hard to do. Iniesta’s done it every 90 minutes, every week, since 2002. “I’ve known him for 15 years. He’s never, ever had a bad game,” Fernando Torres once said.
To the man who made millions fall in love with the beautiful game, Happy Birthday Andres.