Iniesta on Guardiola's Barcelona reunion

Andrés Iniesta tells UEFA.com Josep Guardiola's return to FC Barcelona with FC Bayern München will be "special for everyone" and recalls meeting his "idol" as a 15-year-old.

Josep Guardiola and Andrés Iniesta after Barcelona's 2009 final win against Manchester United
Josep Guardiola and Andrés Iniesta after Barcelona's 2009 final win against Manchester United ©Getty Images

Josep Guardiola returns to FC Barcelona for the first time when FC Bayern München arrive at the Camp Nou for Wednesday's opening instalment of their UEFA Champions League semi-final.

One man who was integral to the Blaugrana's sustained success during Guardiola's tenure between 2008 and 2012 – when he guided them to three Liga titles and two UEFA Champions League crowns among other honours – was Andrés Iniesta.

In this exclusive interview with UEFA.com, the Spain midfielder recalls his first encounter with 'Pep', paints him as a studious coach who "leaves no detail untouched" and explains why the tie against the German heavyweights will be such a special occasion.

UEFA.com: The prize for knocking out Paris Saint-Germain is Bayern München and a reunion with Josep Guardiola, whom you first met in 1999. What is he like?

Andrés Iniesta: He has always been one of my two idols, alongside Michael Laudrup. We were playing in the final of a junior tournament that year. It was the first-team captain's job to give out the cup – that was Guardiola and I was the captain of our team. That was our first meeting. As time went by, we experienced some really great moments together. Wednesday's game will be special for everyone because the memories are always there. It's a very interesting tie between two very strong teams.

UEFA.com: What is it like to work with Guardiola? Where does he make the difference and what is special about him and his players?

Classic Barcelona v Bayern goals
Classic Barcelona v Bayern goals

Iniesta: Every coach is different and has his methods and way of transmitting ideas. He's a coach who leaves no detail untouched. He is always thinking about what to do to improve. He's a coach who offers so many answers, almost all of them correct.

As a player he had a very clear vision of football and understood it. That, allied to his experience now as a coach, means he has improved. He was an important coach, both on a personal level and for the club given what we experienced. We learnt a lot from his time here.

UEFA.com: Against Bayern you will come up against some top players. The battle between you and your friend Javi Martínez in the 2012/13 semi-final, when the German side prevailed 7-0 on aggregate, was very interesting …

Iniesta: It's difficult to know what type of midfield Bayern will have because of injuries, but they're getting there. A player in form at the moment is Thiago Alcántara, who came through the academy here.

UEFA.com: What type of person and player is Thiago?

Iniesta: I have a good relationship with Thiago because I've known him for a long time. He's a natural talent. He's still very young [24] and has already shown he's more than capable of playing in top teams. It will be interesting. It's always much better to play against top players so that the challenge is greater. It will be another brilliant tie.

UEFA.com: Can you enjoy these matches or is there too much at stake?

Breitner expects tight encounter
Breitner expects tight encounter

Iniesta: The main thing is to try to enjoy them as best you can. It's true that these matches are surrounded by ... not pressure but tension, because of what's at stake, because you are one step away from a possible final, because the season is going very well and you're just a small step from achieving your goals. These things shape the match, but the key is to enjoy what you do, knowing that a very hard job needs doing over the 90 minutes, 180 minutes or however long the tie lasts.

UEFA.com: What is your first European Cup or UEFA Champions League memory?

Iniesta: Watching the goal by Ronald Koeman at Wembley [against UC Sampdoria] in the 1992 final. I was eight years old. As for playing, my debut for the club was in the Champions League in Bruges, where we won 1-0 under Louis van Gaal [on 29 October 2002].

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