It has been years since we last saw Andrés Iniesta don the Barcelona crest in a game of football. And yet, it seems like it was only yesterday that his magic was spilling all over the pitch as he effortlessly glided through opposition ranks.
But even though La Liga is far behind him and so is Barcelona for now, at least on a professional level, he loves to look back and remember some of his best moments across the years. In an event hosted by the league themselves called ‘Do you know more about Iniesta than Iniesta himself?’, the ex-Blaugrana sat down with five winners of the said contest to discuss his 10 favourite moments of his football career.
Here’s what the Barcelona icon decided to highlight.
1. His official debut in La Liga
“For me it was undoubtedly one of the most important [moments]. To be able to debut in La Liga, to do so after pursuing that dream of officially debuting in the elite, as they say, was very special”, don Andrés told the interviewers.
Of course, this must’ve been a huge moment for him and the fact he’s done it aged only 18 makes it even more impressive. Who knew that back then this was actually a start of something truly spectacular? A little midfielder with quick feet and silky movement ended up becoming one of Spain’s and Barcelona’s most recognised players.
And, some would say, he left the Camp Nou far too early too.
2. His first goal in La Liga
“It was a match in Zorrilla, against Real Valladolid. I came off the bench and had the opportunity to score a goal and that first goal with your team is always very exciting”
It’s not always that you’re given such a huge chance to turn the result around and help your team but Iniesta took it with both hands. He may not have been expected to become a supersub but coming off the bench to rattle the inside of the opposition’s net is always a big moment.
So it doesn’t exactly surprise to see this moment as one of Iniesta’s favourites. And of course, there were many more to follow quite soon.
3. His first La Liga title
“It’s also very special. I remember the game, in the field of Levante UD. We had Ronaldinho, Etoo, Deco … with Rijkaard as coach. The first title also has a very important corner in my life.”
The team’s journey during Frank Rijkaard’s tenure was quite a rollercoaster of emotions. The Dutchman brought back Barcelona from the brink and made them winners once more. In that squad that boasted the likes of Ronaldinho, Samuel Eto’o and Deco, there was also a very young Iniesta.
Back then, he didn’t have such a prominent role in the team but was still a part of the squad that changed the Catalans’ fortune. But it was just the beginning and a much bigger storm was slowly approaching.
4. First game as first captain of FC Barcelona
“First of all, he [the captain] feels a lot of responsibility. It is a very special moment. For everyone, but above all, for the people who have grown up at Barça, who spent so many years there … See, in this case, I had that opportunity, and although it was due to the absence of teammates, it was special. It was in a symbolic field in LaLiga, San Mamés, and I remember it with great joy.”
Iniesta was one of Barcelona’s greatest captains, that much we can say with absolute certainty. Of course, he inherited the armband from Xavi himself but his first game as captain arrived with difficult circumstances.
With other captains absent, Iniesta was given the honour and privilege and he did not let his team down. Not then or ever.
5. The mythical 2-6 at the Bernabéu
“Thore are games that we all remember. Sometimes we were happy, other times sad, but in this case, obviously, because of the importance of the game: La Liga was very even, because of how the game was, that we started losing and then we turned it around … I think It was one of the best games we played as a team and, above all, to do it at the Bernabéu, which is more important. And it was one of the games that the Catalans will always remember”
To beat Real Madrid is always special. To do it at their own home ground of Santiago Bernabéu is that much sweeter. But to beat them there with such a historic result as the 2-6 must be among the best feelings in the world.
Iniesta, of course, was crucial to that win but the collective is to be praised. Barcelona were a team and they won as a team too.
6. His sextet with FC Barcelona
“2009 was an incredible year, a historic year for the club and for football. It was a privilege. Obviously a sign of a job well done in a season in which you get all the titles. Being the first to do it shows us the importance or the difficulty of being able to do it. It is a year that will go down in history for FC Barcelona”
2009 truly was a historic year for the club and also for the sport as a whole. Barcelona conquered Spain, Europe and then the whole planet with their scintillating football. And Iniesta was among the core of the players who pulled the team across the finish line.
Being the first one to do it too makes it that much more impressive. An incredible moment in his career if there ever was one.
7. Last official La Liga game
“It was a game … I think the most special one. For what it meant, my last game in my stadium meant that, with my people, emotions are running high from the moment you step onto the pitch and after it. That goodbye was something tremendous. As an anecdote, not only did I say goodbye that night, but also a very special player from the rival, an emblem of Real Sociedad, said goodbye too”
Beginnings are often very sweet but goodbyes can be extremely painful. Iniesta’s goodbye to the club, the league and the fans was a bitter experience for everyone involved. Not many players can claim to be almost universally respected by all but the little midfielder is one such player.
As he left that pitch for the last time, our hearts broke a bit. And they’re still on the mend all those years later…
8. Last title he achieved while playing in Spain
“Those are magical memories because it was my last title with my club, and having the opportunity to lift the trophies and all the sensations and emotions that I felt before playing the game, during and after the game, were magical. In addition, I remember them, individually, as one of the best games that have come from me”
Back in 2017/18, Iniesta’s last campaign with Barcelona, the Catalans clinched La Liga and the Cup as well, sending their magician off with a bang. Of course, it would’ve been perfect to conquer Europe as well but that was not to be.
Still, for Iniesta, this was more than enough and the feeling, as he says, was magical.
9. First standing ovation in Spain after the 2010 World Cup
“I have always said it: all the affection and respect that people have shown me is something that I have always classified as more important than any title. Everything was magical in many stadiums and, therefore, I am very grateful to the people”
2010 World Cup remains his greatest achievement as a football player to this day. Of course, that’s something he did with Spain and not Barcelona but that national team was full of Azulgrana players anyway.
And as brilliant as he was, Iniesta marked that World Cup and made it his own. Standing ovations don’t begin to describe how important of a piece he was for his country. But they, alongside the title, will just have to do.
10. When he was named the favorite son of Fuentealbilla
“It is a tiny town, like many in Spain, which not many people are familiar with, but for that part of my life it is nice that it is now recognised, that people know the name of Fuentealbilla with barely 2000 inhabitants”
No matter how famous he became and how big his name is nowadays, Iniesta will never forget his roots. Fuentealbilla is where it all began and now, courtesy of his fame and success, he can give something back to the people who supported him even when he was a nobody.
Because that’s what true legends do. And Iniesta is nothing if not a legend himself.