Andres Iniesta is one of a long line of gifted creative midfielders to have come off the FC Barcelona production line, following in the footsteps of such luminaries as Josep Guardiola, Ivan de la Pena and Xavi.
Iniesta was spotted by Culé club scouts at the age of 12, and within months had made the move to the Catalan giants’ famed youth set-up. There, word quickly spread about a shy boy from Fuentealbilla, near the Spanish city of Albacete, with outrageous dribbling ability and a knack for eye-of-the-needle passes.
His magic also shone at youth international 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. Iniesta made his top-flight debut for Barcelona in October 2002, at the age of 18, and has gone from strength to strength ever since.
Able to play anywhere across midfield or occupy a wide-forward berth, Iniesta is equally adept at prompting from the centre of the park as he is drifting out to the flanks, though arguably his best work is done in the hole behind the strikers. Indeed, it is in this position that his direct style and quick feet can be used to full effect, with the ball seeming glued to his toes as he races into threatening positions. A world-class creator thanks to his vision and intuition, he is not shy about firing off the odd effort at goal.
Boasting a packed medal cabinet featuring four La Liga titles, three Spanish Super Cups, one Copa del Rey, one UEFA Super Cup, two UEFA Champions League crowns and a FIFA Club World Cup, Iniesta played a full part in the six major trophies claimed by Barça during the 2009 calendar year. The diminutive schemer was also an integral figure in Spain’s triumph at UEFA EURO 2008 and, having missed last year’s FIFA Confederations Cup through injury, he will be doubly determined to leave his mark on South African soil at the 2010 FIFA World Cup™.