Few midfielders in contemporary football come more highly rated than Barcelona’s Andres Iniesta. At his best when complimented by central midfield partner Xavi Hernandez, the Spanish playmaker is well and truly a protagonist of the beautiful game.
Iniesta’s importance to Spain’s World Cup success was blatantly evident, and his overall contribution during the competition on the whole proved every bit as crucial as his tournament-winning goal. Deployed in Vicente del Bosque’s front three, the midfielder spent his World Cup campaign away from his more natural central role. This proved little hindrance to Iniesta, who was able to have crucial influence by cutting inside to provide clinical passes. His ability to influence play from any position on the pitch is indeed part of the reasoning behind his ‘illusionist’ nickname
Despite coming into the tournament having just shaken off an injury dogging him from the end of last season, the intuitive midfielder produced a series of impressive displays culminating in two man-of-the-match performances. The first was against Chile, in which he scored the decisive second goal in a 2-1 victory in his first start after the aforementioned injury. The second came in the final itself, and after scoring the winning goal, the midfielder tore of his shirt to reveal a message dedicated to Espanyol captain Dani Jarque – a close friend of his who had passed away earlier in the season. This moment summed Iniesta up entirely – a man who can produce moments of genius on the pitch that win his teams the highest accolades possible, yet whose humility and respect for others also shines through no matter what. These are ingredients for a truly unique player, who can be the ideal role model for all aspiring players – something which the player admitted is, “More satisfying than awards.”
Iniesta was found near the top of many statistic tables throughout the tournament. Of the 382 passes the player made at the World Cup, 278 found their target giving an impressive pass completion rate of 73%. The player’s work rate is also an attribute that can easily go unnoticed. The player covered 66km in only six games in South Africa, which was only fractionally less, in terms of percentage of distance covered per game time, than the man who topped the chart – his teammate Xavi (80km in seven games). His impressive fitness levels allow him to adopt a pressing game when not in possession, a style which mirrors the way his club Barcelona play. In many respects, Iniesta is Barcelona, and he brings his winning recipe to international level which has helped conquer all.
The ultimate prize in club football escaped Andres Iniesta in 2010. With his Barcelona side humbled by Inter in the semi-finals of the Champions League, the midfielder narrowly missed the opportunity to boast the ultimate treble.
Blighted by injury in the early part of the year, it took time for Iniesta to consistently contribute to his club’s cause. However, when he did, his contribution was always of a supreme quality, even if his goal return was minimal. His ability, along with Xavi, to keep play ticking over is vital to Barcelona’s game plan of possession domination. His willingness to receive the ball in the tightest of spaces, and the corresponding trust put in him from his fellow players when giving him the ball, is a priceless trait that is hard to find when looking beyond himself and his teammate Xavi. Recently retired Italian World Cup winner Fabio Cannavaro gave his opinion on who should win the Ballon d’Or, and his reasoning was perfectly simple: “I would give it to Iniesta, as he impressed at club level with Barcelona and also scored the goal that gave Spain the World Cup in the final.” Having been widely regarded as one of the best players in the world in recent years, his World Cup exploits this year have given Iniesta the chance to finally be officially recognised as such.