You know you must have been a good player when the whole football world is sad to see you go. That is the situation Barcelona legend Andres Iniesta is in currently confirming that he will be leaving his beloved Barcelona this summer. But what is next for Iniesta, and what will an Iniesta-less Barcelona look like?
Graduating from Barcelona’s famous La Masia Iniesta is the most gifted player of his generation, and arguably one of if not the best homegrown La Masia graduate ever. There isn’t much the little Spaniard hasn’t won in Barcelona winning La Liga 8 times, the Champions League 4 times and the World Cup with Spain just the pick of the bunch.
Through the years Andres transformed himself from a central-attacking midfield maestro with feet as fast as his mind and passes to make Pirlo jealous, to a versatile central midfield playmaker acting almost as a sniper preferring to operate a bit further from the front lines than in his heyday. Yet this hasn’t weakened his ability putting in a near impeccable shift against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in the Champions League and was central to Barcelona’s away goal.
Yet despite his talent, his numbers have fallen through the years. In 39 appearances this season across all competitions the Midfielder has only notched 2 goals and 3 assists. Yet maybe this can be attributed down to Boss Valverde preferring to deploy the faster Coutinho up top and tough tackling Paulinho in midfield keeping out the Superb Spaniard.
For Barcelona, they have known for some time that the Coolest man in Football was declining season after season. In response to that, they brought in Andre Gomes from Valencia for almost £30 million, brought back former Barcelona youngster Denis Suarez from Villareal for £3 million and of course bought long-term target Phillipe Coutinho from Liverpool for £142 million.
So what does this mean? It shows Barcelona are looking for a playmaker to replace the brilliant Iniesta, and rather than spending a large fee on one player the higher powers at the Camp Nou went for a more spray and pray tactic. Firing multiple darts in the wall hoping at least one will stick. Andre Gomes looks like a flop signing missing the dartboard altogether dividing the Barcelona fanbase almost as much as Marmite does here in the UK. It is hard to gauge Denis Suarez with the midfielder hardly getting a lick of first team action this season despite netting 4 goals and 3 assists.
Yet Barcelona look like they have found their long-term replacement with Coutinho, and it is clear this transfer has struck bullseye on the dart board. The former Liverpool man has scored 2 and assisted 5 in 13 appearances since joining in January. It may have taken the Blaugrana a while, but they have another top class playmaker for the next 5 years minimum should they keep Class Coutinho happy and playing.
For Iniesta, it doesn’t seem like the end of his playing career. Despite signing a new “contract for life” in October 2017 it seems the Spaniard looks likely for a new life in China with multiple clubs interested in the Spaniard. Yet surprisingly two teams in black and white abit closer to home are also both jostling for his signature in the form of Seria A giants Juventus, and Rafa Benitez’s Newcastle with Rafa throwing his hat in the ring for his fellow Spaniard’s signature.
Wherever Andres heads to next two things are pretty much assured. That firstly, he will amaze all with his spellbinding skill despite being 33 years-old. But secondly, that he will be much loved by the fans whatever continent he decides to grace.
He obviously loves the club being brought to tears after admitting to the media he would be leaving this summer, you could see the pure joy when the diminutive dynamite lifted the Copa Del Rey this year knowing he would never do it again. He still has the La Liga title to look forward to with Valverde’s simply unstoppable Barcelona all but confirmed as Champions, for Barcelona’s captain it will be one final title lift.
But from me and most football fans from Barcelona to Beijing there is one thing we want to say. Thank you for inspiring a generation of smaller athletes to try, despite being 5ft 7 there is not much the midfielder can’t do. Perhaps win a Ballon D’Or, which seems like a great injustice to one of the best players ever. Despite that Iniesta is one of the greats of Barcelona and world Football and will be sorely missed by Barcelona even with his successor secured. So for one final time Andres Iniesta, Gracias and Adios Amigo.