Andrés Iniesta

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Andrés Iniesta Luján (Spanish pronunciation: [anˈdɾes iˈnjesta luˈxan]; born 11 May 1984) is a Spanish professional footballer who plays for FC Barcelona and the Spain national team. He serves as the captain for Barcelona. Positionally, he is a versatile player, constantly interchanging between a wide left midfielder and a creative central midfielder. Iniesta came through La Masia, the Barcelona youth academy, after an early emigration from his birthplace, and impressed from an early age. He made his first-team debut in 2002, aged 18. He began playing regularly during the 2004-05 season and has remained in the team ever since. He was an integral part of the Barcelona team that won a historic six trophies in 2009, and his 29 trophies make him the most successful Spanish footballer of all time. Iniesta is considered to be one of the best players of his generation and one of the greatest midfielders of all time.

Iniesta played for Spain at the Under-16, Under-19 and Under-21 levels before making his international debut in 2006. He was selected in the team for the 2006 FIFA World Cup. He helped Spain win UEFA Euro 2008, playing every game and being selected in the UEFA Team of the Tournament. Iniesta was also chosen for the 2010 World Cup and was a key member of the victorious Spanish team; he scored the winning goal in the final against the Netherlands and was named the Man of the Match, and was also selected to the tournament's All-Star Team. At Euro 2012, Iniesta steered Spain to their second consecutive continental crown, being chosen as the Best Player of the Tournament and winning three Man of the Match awards (including in the final against Italy).

Iniesta won the UEFA Best Player in Europe award in 2012, and was also chosen as the Best Player of the 2011-12 UEFA Champions League. He was runner-up to Lionel Messi for the 2010 FIFA Ballon d'Or and achieved third place in 2012. He was named by IFFHS as the World's Best Playmaker in 2012 and 2013, and won the La Liga Spanish Player of the Year award in 2009. Iniesta has been chosen in the UEFA Team of the Year five times (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015), and has been voted into the FIFA World XI on seven occasions: 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015. In recognition of his outstanding performances with club and country, as well as his individual and team achievements, Iniesta received the Marca Legend Award in 2011. In 2014, he received the Golden Foot Award.

Club career

Early career

Iniesta comes from Fuentealbilla, a small village in the province of Albacete, Castile-La Mancha. At the age of 12, while playing for Albacete Balompié in a junior seven-a-side tournament in Albacete, he attracted the attention of scouts from many clubs around Spain. His parents knew the Barcelona youth team coach Enrique Orizaola, and he persuaded them to consider sending Iniesta to the Barcelona youth academy. Iniesta traveled there with his parents and visited La Masia, the farmhouse where the club houses its young players; the trip convinced them to enroll Iniesta in the Barcelona youth ranks.

Iniesta says he "cried rivers" the day he left for La Masia and struggled being separated from his parents; he was very shy and kept to himself while there. He captained the Barcelona Under-15 team to victory in the Nike Premier Cup of 1999, scoring the winning goal in the last minute of the final, and being named player of the tournament. Just after Iniesta arrived at the club, then-Barcelona midfielder Pep Guardiola famously told fellow midfielder Xavi, "You're going to retire me. This lad [Iniesta] is going to retire us all."


In the 2004-05 season Iniesta featured in 37 out of 38 league games—more than any other player—although 25 of these were substitute appearances. He scored twice as Barcelona won La Liga. An injury to fellow midfielder Xavi at the start of the 2005-06 season allowed Iniesta more regular starts in the centre of midfield, and he continued to improve and develop. He played in 11 UEFA Champions League games, including a half-time appearance in the 2006 final, to replace Edmílson. His contribution to the team was praised by manager Frank Rijkaard as Barcelona won a league and Champions League double.

The 2006-07 season saw Iniesta's profile continue to rise and he earned plaudits for his willingness to play in any position for his team. On 22 August 2006, after defeating German side Bayern Munich 4-0, Iniesta lifted the Joan Gamper Trophy as the captain of the team. He played for the first time as a left wing-forward for Barça in two Champions League matches against Levski Sofia, finding the net twice. In the first knockout stage of the same competition, he played at central midfield against Liverpool. Despite being moved around the pitch by manager Rijkaard, the 2006-07 season remains Iniesta's highest scoring thus far.

With the departure of Ludovic Giuly over the summer break, Iniesta was able to switch his number 24 shirt for his preferred number 8. On 19 July 2007, the Spanish newspaper Marca linked Iniesta with a move to rivals Real Madrid, who were willing to pay his €60 million release clause. Iniesta responded the same day to deny the rumours, saying, "I've been told about that and I'm very surprised. I can't do anything about it but I'd like to insist once again that I want to stay here. When I say I want to retire in Barça, I say it with all my heart. And my wishes are above everything else." On 25 January 2008, Iniesta extended his contract to 2014, with his buy-out clause being raised to €150 million.

According to the Spanish football magazine Don Balón, a member of European Sports Magazines, Iniesta has been one of the most consistent performers in the last two seasons of La Liga, placing fifth in 2006-07 and fourth in 2007-08 on their annual rating system, Ranking Don Balón. He also placed ninth in the 2008 FIFA World Player of the Year voting, gaining 37 total points. Barcelona teammates Lionel Messi, Samuel Eto'o, and Xavi also featured in the top ten.


In September 2008, after the departure of former vice-captain Ronaldinho to Milan, the Barcelona squad decided on its new team captains. Iniesta was named fourth-choice behind, in order of preference, Carles Puyol, Xavi and Víctor Valdés; all four were products of the Barcelona youth system. In mid-November 2008, Iniesta suffered a leg injury and was expected to return to action in six weeks. Iniesta, however, did not want to come back until he was 100 percent and finally returned to action on 3 January 2009 as a 65th-minute substitute against Mallorca. After only ten minutes on the pitch, he scored a crucial goal and completed a Barcelona comeback in front of the Camp Nou. His performances in the 2008-09 season have been highly lauded, receiving standing ovations both in Barcelona at the Camp Nou, as well as from rival supporters in away matches.

On 5 February, Iniesta made his 250th appearance for Barcelona in the Copa del Rey match against Mallorca. Iniesta suffered injured in Barcelona's home match against Málaga, but returned to action for the first leg Champions League quarter-final against Bayern Munich, which Barcelona won 4-0. Former teammate Samuel Eto'o described Iniesta as being "the best player in the world; whenever Iniesta is on the pitch, he creates a spectacle." Iniesta scored a vital equaliser in the final minute of stoppage time during the second leg of the Champions League semi-final against Chelsea, with a curling strike with the outside of his right foot 25 yards from goal, securing the tie on away goals as the match finished 1-1. In the season review, Un Any Al Paradis, Iniesta wrote, "I connected with that shot with the outside, not the inside or the tip of my boot, but right from my heart, with all my might."

This goal sent Barcelona through to the final in Rome against defending champions Manchester United. Prior to the final, Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson said, "I'm not obsessed with Messi, Iniesta is the danger. He's fantastic. He makes the team work. The way he finds passes, his movement and ability to create space is incredible. He's so important for Barcelona." Despite a thigh injury, Iniesta played and was influential in the game, providing the assist for the first goal scored by Samuel Eto'o as his team went on to win 2-0; in his analysis, David Pleat wrote, "In the end the midfield artistry of Iniesta and Xavi, helped by Messi, was the critical factor." After the game, Wayne Rooney described Iniesta as the best player in the world.

Don Balón rated him as the most consistent performer in the 2008-09 La Liga season, ahead of teammates Xavi and Lionel Messi.


On 18 October, Iniesta was included in a list of 30 candidates for the prestigious Ballon d'Or, given to the top player of the year in Europe, along with teammates Xavi and Lionel Messi and former teammates Thierry Henry, Yaya Touré, Zlatan Ibrahimović and former Barça striker Samuel Eto'o. Iniesta was also one of five nominees for the World Player of the Year award, alongside teammates Messi, and Xavi. Proud of the nomination, he commented that "the fans of the team who have always been there to support our team-mates also deserve to be recognised". The ceremony was held in Zürich, with Messi winning the award. Iniesta placed fifth with 134 votes. He scored his first goal for the season against Racing de Santander in a 4-0 win. Iniesta's 2009-10 season was largely disrupted by recurring injuries. He missed pre-season fitness training due to the thigh tear suffered in the 2009 Champions League final, and this meant that despite featuring in almost as many matches as the previous season, he did so mostly as a substitute, starting only 20 games throughout. Nevertheless, Barcelona once again won the Liga title, securing a record 99 points. His season came to an end after he aggravated a previous calf injury during training.

On 27 November 2009, Iniesta signed a one-year extension to his Barcelona contract which was set to run until 2015; his buy-out clause was raised from €150 million to €200 million.


After being given extended rest by Spain coach Vicente del Bosque following the World Cup, Iniesta returned to the Barcelona for a pre-season medical on 9 August 2010. Speaking to FC Barcelona's website, he said of the message dedicated to Daniel Jarque revealed during his goal celebration in the World Cup final: "I did it because I felt it deeply. It showed that what is more important than rivalry, your team or your colours is to be human and a good person. I am delighted because it was the most important moment in my career." Asked about the recurrent injuries that plagued his 2009-10 season, he said, "It was hard, but I will start with more desire than ever."

Iniesta scored his first goal of the season for Barcelona during the opening 2010-11 La Liga fixture against Racing de Santander, lobbing the ball into the net from a distance of 30 yards. He received standing ovations from home fans at El Sardinero and the Vicente Calderón Stadium in appreciation of his World Cup-winning exploits whilst with the Spanish national team. He also had a standing ovation in the home pitch of Espanyol in the Derbi barceloní, with the crowd acknowledging his friendship with Daniel Jarque. Barcelona won the match 5-1.

Iniesta was one of the three finalists for the 2010 FIFA Ballon d'Or along with Barcelona teammates Xavi and Messi, placing second behind winner Messi.


Iniesta started the 2011-12 season scoring the opening goal in the second leg of the Supercopa de España against rivals Real Madrid. Barcelona went on to win the match 3-2 and the cup 5-4 on aggregate.

On 19 October, Iniesta scored one of the best goals in the Champions League group stage after a good interchange of passes with Lionel Messi. On 17 March 2012, playing against Sevilla away at the Estadio Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán, Iniesta equaled Emilio Butragueño's record of 50 matches unbeaten in La Liga. On 24 March 2012, Barcelona defeated Mallorca 2-0, marking Iniesta's 51st match unbeaten in the league.

After a long goal drought of goals in the Champions League, he scored a vital goal against Milan in the quarter-finals. From there, he went on to score in the semi-final against Chelsea to make the scoreline 2-0, but Chelsea fought back to ultimately draw the match 2-2, progressing to the final 3-2 on aggregate. He was named the "Best Player" of the 2011-12 UEFA Champions League.


On 25 November 2012, Iniesta was named man of the match after scoring one goal and creating three others in a 4-0 win over Levante in La Liga. Four days later, he was named on a three-man shortlist for the 2012 FIFA Ballon d'Or, along with Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. Iniesta was named in the FIFA World XI, along with teammates Dani Alves, Xavi and Messi.


On 19 December 2013, former Barcelona president Sandro Rosell announced that Iniesta had signed a new contract with the Culés, keeping him at the club until 2018.


Iniesta regularly captained Barcelona throughout the club's second treble-winning season, scoring three times during the team's Copa del Rey campaign.

On 6 June 2015, Iniesta captained Barcelona in the 2015 UEFA Champions League Final. He was named man of the match by UEFA after assisting Ivan Rakitić's opening goal in the 3-1 defeat of Italian champions Juventus at Berlin's Olympiastadion. He was substituted in the 78th minute for club captain Xavi to make his final appearance for Barça before joining Qatari club Al Sadd. This victory made Barcelona the first club in history to win the treble of domestic league, domestic cup and European Cup twice. Iniesta, Xavi, Lionel Messi, Gerard Piqué, Pedro, Sergio Busquets and Dani Alves are the only players to have been a part of both treble-winning teams.


On 21 November 2015, Iniesta was named man of the match after scoring a goal and assisting one more in a 0-4 win against rivals Real Madrid in El Clásico. Iniesta became the third Barcelona player ever, after Diego Maradona in 1983 and Ronaldinho in 2005, to receive applause from Real Madrid fans at the Santiago Bernabéu while he was substituted.

International career

Iniesta burst on to the international scene in 2001, helping Spain win the UEFA European Under-16 Championship. He played for Spain at the 2001 FIFA U-17 World Championship held in Trinidad and Tobago and was in the squad that claimed the UEFA European Under-19 Championship the following year. Since then, he became a regular choice for youth coach Juan Santisteban. In 2003, he formed part of the Spanish side that reached the FIFA World Youth Championship final in the United Arab Emirates, and was named in the FIFA all-star team. During his spell with the Spain U21 side, Iniesta was named captain on several occasions.

He was called up to represent the senior Spain squad at the 2006 FIFA World Cup on 15 May 2006, much to the surprise of many. Iniesta won his first cap for La Furia Roja he was brought on at half-time in a friendly against Russia on 27 May 2006.

He scored his first goal for Spain in a friendly against England on 7 February 2007. His long range effort, hitting the underside of the crossbar on the way in, gave Spain the lead on 63 minutes. Iniesta played a pivotal part in Spain's qualification for UEFA Euro 2008 by scoring goals against Sweden and by assisting the strikers.

Iniesta was selected in Spain's squad for UEFA Euro 2008 in Austria and Switzerland. Though a stomach ailment somewhat hampered his performances in the group stages, he still played an integral part in the midfield. He played in the first two of Spain's group stage matches and proved an important part of the team, providing a particularly notable pass for David Villa's second goal against Russia. He was not rested, unlike most of Spain's regulars, for the final group game against Greece (which Spain won 2-1 thanks to a fantastic volley from Rubén de la Red and a late winner from Daniel Güiza), and returned for the quarter-final as Spain beat Italy on penalties. Iniesta was substituted before the penalty shootout itself. In the semi-final against Russia, he played the entire 90 minutes and produced a quality cross that Xavi converted to open the scoring. The Technical Study Group named him the Man of the Match. He played the duration of the final in Spain's 1-0 win over Germany. Iniesta was named in the Team of the Tournament alongside fellow Spain midfielders Xavi, Marcos Senna and six other teammates. Iniesta did not participate in the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup in South Africa due to a thigh muscle injury; Spain was eliminated from the tournament at the semi-final stage.

Iniesta was selected for Spain in the 2010 World Cup and scored the second goal in a 2-1 group stage win against Chile. He was also named man of the match. For his excellent performances in helping Spain reach the final of the tournament, Iniesta was shortlisted for the Golden Ball award. During the final, he scored the winning goal in the 116th minute of a 1-0 win against Netherlands. He earned a yellow card for removing his jersey during his celebration to reveal an inscription on his undershirt reading, "Dani Jarque: siempre con nosotros", which translates to "Dani Jarque: always with us," in tribute of former Spain youth teammate and Espanyol captain Daniel Jarque, who died of a heart attack in August 2009. He won the man of the match award for his performance, which sent Spain to its first ever World Cup win.

Europa Press reported that Iniesta was the most popular Spanish sportsman on the Internet throughout 2010. The study performed by company Vipnet360 examined the web presence on platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Iniesta was followed by Iker Casillas, David Villa, Rafael Nadal and Fernando Alonso rounding the top five. Iniesta was named in the six man shortlist for the 2011 Laureus World Sportsman of the Year, and was selected in the FIFA World XI.

At UEFA Euro 2012, Iniesta was awarded the man of the match award for his performances in three different matches. He was also selected as man of the match in the final against Italy, which Spain won 4-0. By winning the award, Iniesta became the only Spanish player to win the award at least once in each of Spain's three consecutive successful tournaments. Iniesta was also chosen as the UEFA Euro 2012 Player of the Tournament.

At the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup, Iniesta was named in the Team of the Tournament and awarded the Silver Ball for the second best player in the competition, as Spain finished runner-up to host nation Brazil. Iniesta started all three matches for Spain at the 2014 World Cup, winning his 100th cap in the team's final group match against Australia.

Style of play

Like fellow La Masia graduate Cesc Fàbregas, Iniesta originally started as a defensive midfielder but his balance, ball control and agility allied with his skill on the ball saw him make progress as an attacking midfielder. Beyond his raw talent that was spotted at a young age by Barcelona's scouts, it was his great versatility, work ethic and inventiveness that allowed him to stake a claim on a first-team place at the age of 18. Vicente del Bosque described him as "the complete footballer. He can attack and defend, he creates and scores," and Frank Rijkaard said, "I played him as a false winger, central midfielder, deep midfielder and just behind the striker and he was always excellent." He was used initially as a wide-forward in the absence of Juan Román Riquelme and Ronaldinho by Louis van Gaal and Rijkaard respectively, but made his name as a world-class player in central midfield alongside or in lieu of Xavi, at both club and international level. As says, "It is in this position that his direct style and quick feet can be used to full effect, with the ball seeming glued to his toes as he races into threatening positions. Iniesta is a player known for his passing, dribbling, vision and movement."

Much like other Barcelona youth products such as Pep Guardiola, Xavi and Iván de la Peña, Iniesta is a playmaker who relies on exceptional creative passing, intuition and inventiveness to control the midfield and dictate the ebb and flow of play. Iniesta has been praised for his understanding and interplay with Xavi; former Barcelona teammate Giovanni van Bronckhorst said of the pair, "They have a special relationship, they always have, they just seem to know where the other one is." During his maturation as a player, he has gained a reputation for playing a part in important goals for club and country, specifically playing a leading role in the 2006, 2009 and 2011 UEFA Champions League finals, as well as the 2010 World Cup Final and 2008-09 UEFA Champions League and Euro 2008 semi-finals.

His willingness to play anywhere on the pitch has earned him the sobriquet El Ilusionista (The Illusionist), El Cerebro (The Brain), El Anti-Galáctico (a pun on Real Madrid players' nickname Los Galácticos), El Caballero Pálido (The Pale Knight) and most recently Don Andrés from the Spanish press. Zinedine Zidane also praised Iniesta, stating on the Spanish radio station Cadena COPE, "Iniesta really impresses me. He's got so much influence in Spain's game. He reminds me of myself, but he is paler than me." Atlético Madrid striker and Spain teammate Fernando Torres said that "we've been playing together since we were 15 and I have never, ever seen him play badly." He is widely regarded as one of the most respected and best midfielders of all time.

Media and sponsorship

Iniesta has a sponsorship deal with American sportswear and equipment supplier, Nike, and has appeared in Nike commercials alongside Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar, Zlatan Ibrahimović and Wayne Rooney. Iniesta features in EA Sports' FIFA, and was the sixth-highest rated player in FIFA 15. In March 2015, Iniesta had the ninth highest social media rank in the world among sportspeople, with 24 million Facebook fans.

Personal life

Since 2008, Iniesta has dated Anna Ortiz, and in September 2010 he confirmed that she was pregnant with his child. On 3 April 2011, she gave birth to their daughter Valeria. The couple married on 8 July 2012. On 27 October 2013, he confirmed that Anna was pregnant with a baby boy. On 7 March 2014, Iniesta and his wife lost their son due to miscarriage.

In 2011, Iniesta invested €420,000 in his boyhood club, Albacete, thus becoming its major shareholder. Two years later, with the club facing administrative relegation to the fourth tier of Spanish football, he loaned them a further €240,000 to cover unpaid wages. Iniesta is a Catholic. He made a promise to walk the Way of Saint James if Spain won the 2010 World Cup.