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Andrés Iniesta ends Spain career: his greatness explained

Andrés Iniesta has announced his international retirement following Spain's 2018 FIFA World Cup exit; here is why we will miss him.

2006 final highlights: Barcelona 2-1 Arsenal

Andrés Iniesta has announced his retirement from international football after Spain's loss on penalties to Russia in their round of 16 tie at the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

The midfield metronome, who also departed Barcelona for Japanese side Vissel Kobe at the end of last season, stands down having won the UEFA European Championship in 2018 and 2012, as well as the 2010 FIFA World Cup. UEFA.com celebrates his brilliance.

On retiring

"It's true that this was my last match with the national team. On an individual level, it brings an end to a marvellous chapter of my life. It's a difficult moment, one we've experienced before, but we weren't capable of that little bit extra. My personal cycle ends here after a long time [playing for Spain], but everything has its beginning and end. It isn't the farewell I dreamed about, but football and life can be like that."

What they say

See how Spain won the EURO 2012 final

"I give my wholehearted recognition to one of the greatest players of our history. He's an outstanding professional. The way he played on the pitch when he substituted on was like he was playing in his first cap and I want to thank him wholeheartedly."
Fernando Hierro, Spain coach

"He does everything well, with simplicity. At times, it may look like he's not doing anything, but in fact he's doing it all. Everything is different with Andrés. The hardest thing to do in football is to make it look like everything is easy, effortless, and that's Andrés."
Lionel Messi, Barcelona forward

"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."
Dino Baggio, former Italy midfielder

Andrés Iniesta and Neymar at Barcelona
Andrés Iniesta and Neymar at Barcelona©Getty Images

"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."
Neymar, former Barcelona team-mate

"He's the absolute business as a player. He never talks about himself, never demands anything, but people who think he's satisfied just to play are wrong."
Josep Guardiola, former Barcelona coach

"I don't think Xavi [Hernández] and Iniesta have ever given the ball away in their lives. They get you on that carousel and they can leave you dizzy."
Sir Alex Ferguson, former Manchester United manager

"From 2004 until now, Iniesta has been the most important player we have had because he has been in every coach's project since [Frank] Rijkaard."
Josep María Bartomeu, Barcelona president

Appearance and goal tallies

International caps: 131 appearances, 13 goals
UEFA club competition: 138 appearances, 11 goals
Domestic competition: 530 appearances, 46 goals


Andrés Iniesta holds the FIFA World Cup aloft
Andrés Iniesta holds the FIFA World Cup aloft©Getty Images

FIFA World Cup (1): 2010
UEFA EURO (2): 2008, 2012
U19 EURO (1): 2002
U16 EURO (1): 2001
UEFA Champions League (4): 2006, 2009, 2011, 2015
UEFA Super Cup (2): 2011, 2015
FIFA Club World Cup (3): 2009, 2011, 2015
Spanish Liga (9): 2005, 2006, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2018
Copa del Rey (6): 2009, 2012, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018
Spanish Super Cup (6): 2005, 2006, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2016
UEFA Best Player in Europe (1):2012
UEFA EURO Player of the Tournament (1): 2012
UEFA.com Fans' Team of the Year (6): 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2016

Claims to fame

Andrés Iniesta won his second EURO in 2012
Andrés Iniesta won his second EURO in 2012©Getty Images

• 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.

Highlghts: Spain win EURO 2008

• 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 had sadly passed away a year earlier.

Highlights: Barcelona’s 2006 final win over Arsenal

• Joined Barcelona at the age of 12 after catching the eye of scouts for local club Albacete. He says 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."

Iniesta making his Barcelona debut in 2002
Iniesta making his Barcelona debut in 2002©Getty Images

• 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 nine Liga crowns, six 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.

He is sixth in the list of all-time UEFA Champions League appearance-makers (group stage to final) with 130.

What you might not know

Iniesta and his hero Xavi
Iniesta and his hero Xavi©Getty Images

• Despite becoming a national hero in 2010, Iniesta almost missed the World Cup through injury. How different things might have been had coach 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 are 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."