Exactly ten years ago to the day, an 18-year-old midfielder – wearing No34 on his shirt – took to the field in a UEFA Champions League encounter against Club Brugge KV. With FC Barcelona's progress in the group already assured, Louis van Gaal decided to give youth its chance at the Jan Breydelstadion.
Juan Román Riquelme struck the winning goal in the Azulgrana's 1-0 victory that day but it is the debut of one Andrés Iniesta that the match is now most remembered for at the Camp Nou.
"I felt very comfortable that night as we travelled with a lot of players from our B team," the midfielder recalled. "
It was a dream to play my first senior official game under Van Gaal. I had been training with the first team since the beginning of the season and to be honest, I think I played a good game that night in Bruges."
In August Iniesta, 28, was named the 2011/12 UEFA Best Player in Europe ahead of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Less than two months before that, he again played an integral role – and was named player of the tournament – as Spain successfully defended their UEFA European Championship crown in Kyiv.
Added to his two EURO victories with Spain, the Albacete-born attacker has won a FIFA World Cup, three UEFA Champions Leagues and five Liga titles, along with other trophies.
Among all of his highlights, however, there are two moments that stand out for fans of the modest Iniesta. The first arrived with his goal in added time of Barça's 1-1 UEFA Champions League semi-final draw with Chelsea in 2009, a result which sent the eventual competition winners into that year's final.
"That was a unique moment," he explained. "It is one of those ones where everybody knows where they were when it happened and how they reacted. [For me] it was the most intense expression of happiness and emotion. It's almost impossible to beat that." Iniesta managed to create more magic in his native land when his extra-time goal won the 2010 World Cup final for Spain against the Netherlands.
Since then, he has continued to demonstrate an on-field ease in carrying out his duties while he continues to receive plaudits a decade after his debut for Barcelona. "I don't play to win individual prizes," he said recently. "That's just a very small detail of football."
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