Scorer of the goal that clinched the Final of the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ South Africa and Spain’s first world crown, Andres Iniesta’s status as a national hero was immediately set in stone. That is not a status he has particularly revelled in, given his shy nature off the pitch. Once he enters the field of play, however, Iniesta is able to leave those inhibitions behind and unleash an astonishing talent for finding eye-of-the-needle passes, evading even the tightest of markers and testing a goalkeeper’s reflexes from any angle.
Though not a prolific goalscorer, he has shown a knack for popping up with crucial strikes, such as the aforementioned one in Johannesburg, for both club and country. Barcelona fans, for example, will surely never forget his decisive last-gasp effort against Chelsea in the second leg of the UEFA Champions League semi-finals in 2009, which kept Barça on track for what was their third win in the competition. What is more, that calendar year could not have been more complete for Iniesta and Co, who lifted all six trophies available.
This season has not been quite so brilliant by the Azulgranas’ recent standards, but the versatile attacking midfielder – at the club since the age of 12 and with a medal collection featuring virtually every possible club title – has played his part in the Catalan outfit’s La Liga success.
On the national-team scene, Iniesta first shone at youth level with La Rojita, being crowned a European champion at U-16 and U-19 level and helping his country reach the final of the FIFA U-20 World Cup UAE 2003 – where he was also voted into the tournament’s best XI.
Chosen as Player of the Tournament at UEFA EURO 2012, UEFA Best Player in Europe 2011/12 and on the podium for the FIFA Ballon d’Or 2010 and 2012, Iniesta missed out on Spain’s FIFA Confederations Cup 2009 campaign in South Africa through injury. A winner of two EUROs and a FIFA World Cup with La Roja, the Fuentealbilla-born star would love to add the Festival of Champions to the list in Brazil this June.