It was another superlative performance from the man who lives for the big occasions. In the Copa final against Sevilla, in what is likely his last final in the Blaugrana shirt, he couldn’t help but shed a few tears as he settled down in his seat after being brought off to a rapturous applause from everyone at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium. Thoughts of previous finals and the joys that came with it, I’m sure, would have flashed through his head, but “El celebro,” as he’s fondly called, has paid his dues and it’s time to move on. Barcelona will miss his presence and Spanish football will miss his class, on and off the pitch. Time flies when you’re having fun they say. 2009 seems like yesterday, when this crop of players started dominating football like no other club said had before. And now all that is left of them is Messi, Busquets, and Pique.
As Xavi said, “Iniesta was too good to fail”. His style of play is unique and one could only marvel at his elegance. As we revel in his legendary time at Barcelona, I have compiled a list of 5 unforgettable moments of the Don at Barcelona.
1) The Champions League Final against Arsenal in 2006 — Iniesta’s stardom essentially began in the 2006 UCL final against Arsenal. The 21 year old was brought on to replace the injured Edmilson in the second half and he turned the game on it’s head. He was involved in the equalizing goal as his pass to Larson led to the assist for Eto’o and Barcelona went on to win that match and grab her 2nd UCL trophy.
2) Reassuring Pep Guardiola — It may be unthinkable these days, but there was a time when many doubted Pep and his methods. After a poor start to Pep’s maiden season, he was beginning to doubt himself as the media started to increase the pressure on him. However, it was Iniesta that gave Pep his piece of mind as he showed that his influence is not limited to the pitch alone. He is a leader.
“A small figure poked his head around the door, and spoke calmly. ‘Don’t worry, Mister. We’ll win it all. We’re on the right path. Carry on like this, ok? We’re playing brilliantly, we’re enjoying training. Please, don’t change anything,” – Andrés Iniesta.
Guardiola said how much the encouragement meant to him and his style in Iniesta’s book, “The Artist: Andres Iniesta” as he was beginning to doubt himself.
The team went on to win their first ever treble and the rest, as we know, is history…
3) El Clasico, 2015 — There was a great deal of uncertainty going into that match as Messi was not fully fit and didn’t start and Lucho went for a novel 4-4-2 system with Neymar and Suarez in the center, while Iniesta and Roberto played from the wings. However, any doubt was soon put to rest as Iniesta stole the show and ran Madrid’s midfield ragged. He set up a goal, scored a brilliant goal himself, and was given a standing ovation by the Bernabeu faithful. Memorable performance.
4) “That” goal against Chelsea in the Champions League — Probably Iniesta’s most iconic moment in a Barcelona shirt. A cross in from Alves was poorly cleared by Essien, who had been perfect all game, Messi intercepted and gave an inch perfect pass just to Iniesta, just outside the box, who hit a bullet of a shot to Silence Stamford Bridge. Iniesta did not only break the heart of the Chelsea players and fans, he shredded it. Guardiola couldn’t believe his eyes; he ran half the length of the stadium rejoicing. It was a night of Emotions that can never be forgotten in years to come and spurred Barcelona’s treble run and impending dominance.
5) Champions League Final vs. Manchester United in 2009
“I think Iniesta is the best player in the world right now” – Wayne Rooney after the 2009 UCL final.
In what was one of the more one-sided finals in the history of the Champions League, Iniesta absolutely stole the show. Iniesta and the rest of the Barcelona midfield left Fletcher, Giggs and co gasping for breath with the intricate passes and movements. Iniesta is one of the best big game players in the history of the sport, and this performance vs. United was one of his best.
Barcelona have not been able to replace Xavi yet and now have the humongous task of replacing the irreplaceable Iniesta; you don’t want to be in Bartomeu’s shoes right now. As for the fans, let us enjoy the remaining games we’ll see Iniesta on a Barca shirt.
Written by @Shinaspeaks