A man just as integral to Barcelona and Spain’s successes as his other glamorous teammates. The man who scored the winning goal at the World Cup in South Africa. One of the most truly gifted footballers in the world. 2010, you could say, was the year Andres Iniesta became a worlwide name. Chris Mann tells us all about him.
On 11th June 2010, in front of 84,490 people in Johannesburg and 700 million worldwide, Andrés Iniesta made history. Deep into extra time in the World Cup final, with just four minutes standing between Spain, Holland and the crushing tension of a penalty shoot-out, Vicente Del Bosque’s side launched one final attack.
Fernando Torres has the ball wide on the left and spots Iniesta unmarked on the far side of the penalty area. His pass is intercepted but the ball falls to Cesc Fàbregas who threads a pass through to the still unmarked Barcelona player. His first touch isn’t perfect, the ball ballooning a few feet into the air, but as it falls Iniesta sets himself. This could be it; one bounce, one swing of his right foot. The net ripples. Dani Jarque, siempre con nostros.
It’s incredible to think just how successful Iniesta’s calendar year has been despite missing portions of it through injury. The thigh strain he picked up during the 2009 Champions League final occasionally caused him trouble during 2010, the graduate of La Masia missing a number of league games but still being an integral part of Pep Guardiola’s majestic Barça side.
A sublimely creative attacking midfielder in the Blaugrana’s 4-3-3, Iniesta has emerged as one of the most adroit exponents of ‘tiki-taka’ and has formed a near-telepathic relationship with Xavi at the heart of the peerless Barça system. Once overshadowed by his feted team mates, the last year has seen Iniesta emphatically emerge from the background to have his immense abilities lauded around the world.
Xavi may be the flawless automaton keeping the team in possession, but Iniesta is Barcelona’s spark, the man who turns that possession into attacking potential. When Iniesta’s career eventually reaches its conclusion we may well look back on 2010 as the year he was truly and universally recognised as one of the greatest players on the planet.
While Barcelona may have marched to a second consecutive La Liga title in 2009/10, it was with his country that Iniesta enjoyed his finest moments of the last year. Deployed with relative freedom on the left side of the midfield three, Iniesta was a creative powerhouse for his country throughout the World Cup, scoring the second goal in the group stage win over Chile as well as the crucial strike in the final.
An almost spectral figure, the Barcelona player floated around the pitch, materialising as if out of nothing to provide an incisive pass or attempt on goal. As with his club, opponents seemed intent on marking other supposedly more dangerous players out of the game (Lionel Messi, Xavi, Pedro and David Villa spring to mind) only to leave Iniesta free to dictate play in his uniquely introverted and yet beautifully evocative fashion.
Self-effacing but gloriously gifted, 2010 saw Andrés Iniesta further enhance his reputation as one of the most delicately creative and tactically intelligent players in the game today. He may not steal the headlines like some of his team mates, but for his breathtaking work for both club and country his lofty position in this list is more than deserved.
Return tomorrow to see who was voted 3rd in the Top 50 Players in the World ranking.