Those paying their first visit to Camp Nou to watch a Barcelona home match leave the stadium mesmerized by Andres Iniesta and his eye-of-the-needle passing. For regulars, it is par for the course.
Iniesta dovetails beautifully with teammate Xavi Hernandez. Both products of Barca’s La Masia youth academy, the duo were pillars of Spain’s 2010 World Cup and double European Championship triumph, and have won three Champions Leagues with the Catalan giants.
The midfielder is as humble as they come: “My personal objectives are collective objectives. Individual prizes are not important.”
It is such collective spirit that has propelled Barca to multiple trophies, with that six-trophy haul in 2009 considered the Zenith for Iniesta and co.
The Early Years:
After showing his promise as a child, Iniesta initially wanted to join Barca’s hated rivals Real Madrid, but his parents were unconvinced that the Spanish capital was a safe environment for their son, and he joined Barca’s academy at the age of 12.
After being invited to train for the first team one day when he was 16, Josep Guardiola, now coach of the Catalans, told his teammate Xavi: "You're going to retire me, but this kid's going to retire us all".
After progressing through the club’s various youth teams, Iniesta made his senior debut under Louis van Gaal in 2002. However, with so much talent in the ranks, he was used in a variety of different positions.
Champions League Treble:
To date Iniesta has won five league titles with Barcelona. He was left out of the starting line-up as Barca won the Champions League against Arsenal in 2006, but was introduced as a half-time substitute. He only made 15 starts in the domestic league that season.
However, Iniesta buckled down and became a regular in the following season, and is now one of the first names on the team-sheet.
One of Iniesta’s finest moments in a Barca shirt was his last minute goal to send Barca through to the 2009 Champions League final at the expense of Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. He unloaded from the edge of the area and watched his shot swerve into the top right hand corner. That season he would play 90 minutes of the final as Barca beat Manchester United 2-0 in Rome.
Two years later he was again integral as Barca defeated the Red Devils 3-1 in the final at Wembley.
As a youngster, Iniesta helped Spain win the UEFA European Under-16 and Under-19 Championships.
Iniesta was a surprise selection for the 2006 World Cup in Spain, but it was at the 2010 edition where he would truly make an impact. The playmaker registered against Chile in the group stages as he produced a man-of-the-match display, but it was in the final against the Netherlands where he made his biggest impact, scoring the extra-time winner as Spain won their first ever World Cup.
Two years earlier he formed part of a magnificent midfield that was the driving force behind the country’s European Championship triumph.
Iniesta was named Player of the Tournament as Spain retained the trophy four years later.