Andrés Iniesta has been awarded a lifetime contract by Barcelona, the club with which he has won 28 trophies and counting. UEFA.com takes a look at what makes the 33-year-old so special.
Article top media content
From academy graduate to midfield metronome in the all-conquering Barcelona and Spain sides that broke record after record, Andrés Iniesta was on Friday given a lifetime contract by the club with which he has won 28 trophies and counting. UEFA.com takes a look at what makes the 33-year-old so special.
What they say:
"Over the last 20 years I can't remember players as good or complete as Iniesta. It's incredible, he never messes up play, he's the most complete in the world. Maybe he misplaces just one pass in the whole game."
Former Italian international Dino Baggio
"He's the best midfielder I've ever seen play. For his quality, for everything. For being a good guy, for being a legend, he doesn't need a Ballon d'Or. He's incomparable because he's very different. He has an elegance and incredible class that makes him different to everyone else."
Former Barcelona team-mate Neymar
"Nobody is like Andrés Iniesta, neither in our squad nor in world football; that's the problem."
Former Barça boss Luis Enrique on dealing with Iniesta's injury absence
International caps: 121 appearances, 12 goals
UEFA club competition: 132 appearances, 11 goals
Liga: 418 appearances, 34 goals
UEFA Champions League (4): 2006, 2009, 2011, 2015
UEFA Super Cup (2): 2011, 2015
FIFA Club World Cup (3): 2009, 2011, 2015
Spanish Liga (8): 2005, 2006, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2015, 2016
Copa del Rey (5): 2009, 2012, 2015, 2016, 2017
Spanish Super Cup (6): 2005, 2006, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2016
FIFA World Cup (1): 2010
UEFA EURO (2): 2008, 2012
U19 EURO (1): 2002
U16 EURO (1): 2001
Claims to fame:
- Joined Barcelona at the age of 12 after catching the eye of scouts for local club Albacete.
- Iniesta admits he "cried rivers" the day he left for La Masia and struggled being separated from his parents.
- His childhood idol Pep Guardiola witnessed a 15-year-old Iniesta playing for Barça's youth teams. Stood next to Xavi Hernández on the sidelines, Guardiola said: "You will retire me, but this kid will retire us both."
- After rising through the ranks, he made his first-team debut in the UEFA Champions League against Club Brugge in October 2002 under Louis van Gaal.
- That was the beginning of a special relationship with the competition for Iniesta, who has won the UEFA Champions League a joint-record four times.
- He also has eight Liga crowns, five Copa del Rey and three FIFA Club World Cup titles.
- 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.
- Iniesta has been chosen in the UEFA.com users' Team of the Year six times (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2016), the most selections ever in midfield.
- Played at every level for Spain's junior sides from U16 to U21.
- Won the UEFA European Under-16 Championship in 2001 before helping La Rojita lift the U19 title 12 months later.
- A mainstay in the national team, he was pivotal as Spain won a historic treble of titles, with their UEFA EURO 2008 and 2012 triumphs being sandwiched by the 2010 FIFA World Cup win.
- In 2008 he was selected in the team of the tournament, playing every game as Spain went on to defeat Germany 1-0 in the final. He went one better at UEFA EURO 2012 as he was named player of the tournament.
- In 2010 he scored the winner in extra time as Spain beat the Netherlands 1-0 to claim their first World Cup. In celebration he ripped off his shirt with the message "Dani Jarque, siempre con nosotros" (Dani Jarque, always with us) as a tribute to his friend, the former Espanyol player who sadly passed away a year earlier.
What you might not know:
- Despite becoming a national hero in 2010, Iniesta almost missed the World Cup through injury. How different things might have been had Vicente del Bosque not gone with his instincts.
- Despite being Barcelona club captain, there is footage of a young Iniesta bashfully admitting to TV cameras he grew up a Real Madrid fan.
- A big cinema fan, Iniesta had a cameo role in Spanish film 'Quien mató a Bambi' (Who killed Bambi – while it sounds nasty, we are assured it's a comedy) in which he is pictured on the football pitch – where else?
- Made his Spain debut at the ground of Albacete; his first club.
- While Iniesta himself is regarded as one of the best midfielders of all time, he has never hidden his admiration for former team-mate Xavi: "There's not enough words of praise for Xavi. I can't find high enough praise to explain what he represents as a player and person."
He says ...
"Me a hero? No! I feel very loved, obviously. The fans show their support all the time. But a hero is someone who has to fight against a disease or has to emigrate in order to feed their children. I'm privileged to be able to play football and sometimes I'm lucky enough to make people happy."
What he might achieve yet:
- This season, he will be looking to add to his 28 club trophies (which might have been more had he not missed the 2009 Spanish and UEFA Super Cups injured) and after an impressive 100% start in the Liga and UEFA Champions League, you would not be surprised if he did, with a fifth European Cup (only one off the competition record) a possibility.
- Old friend Xavi has the all-time Barcelona record appearances (767). In second on 639, Iniesta will be determined to get as close as possible to his former team-mate and keep third-placed Lionel Messi (594) at bay.
- Next summer's World Cup is in his sights, while a third title with Spain at UEFA EURO 2020 is not beyond the realms of possibility.