Andres Iniesta will forever go down in Spanish footballing history after his sublime extra-time winner in the Final of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, a goal which enabled La Roja to lift the Trophy for the very first time. Shy and retiring in his dealings with the media, Iniesta is a different animal with the ball at his feet. Nothing short of spectacular in the attacking third, his speed, exquisite dribbling skills, eye for a killer pass and uncanny decision-making make him a formidable proposition for any backline.
Spotted by Blaugrana club scouts at a youth tournament at the age of 12, within months Iniesta had made the move to the Catalan giants’ famed youth set-up. One of a long line of gifted midfielders to have come off the Culé production line, by the age of 18 the youngster had broken into the club’s first team, where his telepathic understanding with fellow Can Barça graduate Xavi has continued to grow and flourish. Indeed, the duo’s on-the-pitch chemistry has been one of the key ingredients of the phenomenal success achieved by both Barcelona and Spain in recent years.
His magic also shone at youth national-team level, where he helped Spain to European U-16 and U-19 titles as well as to the final of the 2003 edition of the FIFA U-20 World Cup in UAE, his displays at the latter event earning a berth in the tournament’s best XI. After making his senior debut for La Selección in May 2006, Iniesta went on to be an integral part of his country’s historic triumph at UEFA EURO 2008. And having missed out on Spain’s third-place finish at the FIFA Confederations Cup 2009 through injury, he helped ensure La Roja were not to be denied again a year later on South African soil.
Highlights in 2010
It is hard to imagine how Spain and their talismanic midfielder could top the success of 2010. In extra time of a tense and fiercely contested Final against the Netherlands, it was Iniesta who collected Cesc Fabregas’ ball in the box before coolly driving home the goal that made La Roja world champions. What's more, he was voted Budweiser Man of the Match in the Final, as well as in the earlier victories over Chile and Paraguay. And though Barcelona were unable to match their record six-trophy haul of 2009, Iniesta and Co added another two medals to their vast collection after success in La Liga and the Spanish Supercopa.
11/07/2010 – The date of the FIFA World Cup Final in Johannesburg’s Soccer City Stadium will live long in the memories of the Spanish players, as will the image of Iniesta celebrating his winning goal.
2010 in words
"If I knew (it’d be like this), I wouldn’t have scored the goal!"
Overwhelmed by the incessant flow of tributes coming his way after the Final, Iniesta’s unease in the spotlight comes to the fore.
"I like to think that in football as in life, you sometimes get back what you put in and are rewarded for the effort and sacrifices you make. I think that people who really love football get their reward in the end. You never know when it’ll happen, but it has happened to me."
On the fruits of his hard work over the years.
"Who am I to say if I deserve the Ballon d’Or or not? I’d be lying if I told myself I didn’t mind either way, but it’s not something I’m obsessed with. Just being on the list of 23 candidates is special in itself. I don’t think a player wins the Ballon d’Or thanks to one goal alone. If I’m fortunate enough to win it’ll be because of a combination of factors.”
On his chances of winning the FIFA Ballon d’Or 2010.