8 things you need to know about Andres Iniesta
With the exception of his first season with the senior Barcelona team, Andres Iniesta has been one of the best midfielders in the game or was at least working his way up to it. One of Barcelona’s most decorated players alongside Lionel Messi, the Spaniard has won it all including the European Championship and the World Cup.
Doing his work with quiet dignity and loyalty, his performances were never about himself but the entire team.
For a man who lives his life outside the glitter of the football world, there’s very little we know about the details of his personal life. While his feats on the pitch have been faithfully recorded, his life off it has gone easily unnoticed.
In an attempt to better get to know the man who has achieved so much, here are eight things you might not have known about Iniesta:
8 Destined for Real Madrid
Like every other young football fan, Andres Iniesta supported his local club, Albacete and Barcelona was a close second because he absolutely worshipped Michael Laudrup. When he was just six, the Catalonian giants defeated his beloved side 7-1 and he developed a deep animosity for the side that could only be satisfied by shifting his allegiance to their most hated rivals Real Madrid.
His change in loyalties was further rewarded when Laudrup moved to Real Madrid in 1994. Two years later, his performance at a junior tournament for Albacete attracted the attention of many scouts but it was Real Madrid who caught Iniesta’s eye. Los Blancos were just as eager to sign him and Iniesta’s childhood dream was about to come true.
However, when his parents went to visit the academy, the close proximity of the red light district and the number of prostitutes that roamed there visibly worried them and refused to send their son to the Spanish capital.
7 Fast-tracked to Barcelona
Even though he lost out on such a great opportunity, an even bigger one was just around the corner. Iniesta’s mother and father were acquainted with Enrique Orizaola, a youth coach with Barcelona who convinced them to send him to the famed La Masia Academy.
The Blaugrana had seen much they liked in the young Spaniard and were willing to overlook some of their own practices to sign him.
Unlike many academies, La Masia houses all their players from out of town in their own hostel from the age of 13 or 14. However, Iniesta was just 12 and it was highly unusual for the club to sign someone that young. Despite some objections, the club went forward with recruiting him and can rest assured it was one of the best decisions they could have taken for themselves and the player.
6 La Masia wasn’t always home
La Masia may have become home to Iniesta by the time he left the protection of the academy, but that wasn’t always the case. The coordinator of the youth teams at the time, Albert Benaiges remembers him as someone who suffered from acute homesickness.
“He was very close to his family and every goodbye each weekend would become a mini-drama. Andres would be crying and he spent a lot of time at my house, and whenever my mother sees him smiling now she always makes a joke, because she remembers how much he suffered in those days.”
Iniesta himself has referred to those days as some of the worst of his young life but he never let that get in the way. The Spanish world cup winner said, “You would look out and there was the Nou Camp stadium opposite. It was always on your mind, that the goal was to play there.”
5 Bodega Iniesta
Iniesta’s father, Jose Antonio owned a vineyard since the 1990s but it wasn’t until much later that he and his son started making wine on a commercial scale. The construction of their first winery was completed in 2010 and Bodega Iniesta was open for business. Located in the Manchuela region near the Mediterranean coast, Iniesta even used the money from his first professional contract to buy more land for his dad.
At present, his winery is the largest producer of bottled wine in the region and hopes to launch his brand in the United Kingdom. While it’s a much more competitive market there, he already has Gary Neville’s word to include Bodega Iniesta wines in his restaurant, Georges menu. And for all you really crazy Iniesta fans, you can even go stay in his vineyard at just Rs. 7241 per night through Airbnb.
4 The many faces of Iniesta
Fans love giving players their very own nicknames, monikers that describe who they are and what they mean to the thousands of people who rejoice and repent every time they make a move on football greens. Bringing as much glory as Iniesta did to the club, the Catalonian faithful gave him the name El Ilusionista meaning the Illusionist owing to his sublime and magical passing skills.
Fans also refer to him as the ‘Anti-Galactico’ as a jibe to Real Madrid fans in the Spanish capital. Humble, unassuming and always dignified, the Catalonians and frankly pretty much every other football fan cherish him for shunning the spotlight in stark contrast to the rest of his fraternity.
3 His pilgrimage through Europe
Before the 2010 FIFA World Cup kicked off in South Africa, members of the Spanish contingent sent sealed envelopes to Marca containing the promises they would fulfil if they came home with the trophy. Their efforts did not go in vain once Andres Iniesta scored the winning goal and the Spanish daily opened the letters to find out what they contained.
Iniesta, a devout Catholic had vowed to make a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela through the Way of St. James, a popular place of pilgrimage in Europe. It is a 500-mile walk to the town that is home to the remains of St. James in Spain. Iniesta wasn’t the only one who made the promise. Fernando Torres and Sergio Busquets also made a similar decision.
Speaking in an interview ahead of the World Cup, Iniesta said, “Somehow…I’ll do it however I have to!”
2 Continued association with Albacete
Andres Iniesta is the majority shareholder in his local club Albacete where he played for two years before moving to La Masia. Wikipedia has gone so far as to list him as the owner of the side. The serial trophy winner bought shares worth €420,000 in a public offering in 2011 to stabilise the financial condition of the third division club.
In an attempt to give back to his local community he also asked his father to serve on the board. The 32-year-old helped the club out of a tough spot yet again in 2013 when it was under threat of being demoted to the fourth division for administrative reasons. Iniesta spent €240,000 of his own money for the club so that players wages could be paid and the club could work their way up to the second division and not out of the fourth.
1 Most accurate first impression ever
The first time Pep Guardiola saw Andres Iniesta play was at the Nike Cup in Spain when the young Spaniard turned out for the youth team. It was the Manchester City manager’s brother who convinced him to go check the game out.
“Sometimes in life, it’s first impressions that count and the first impression I have of Andrés was the day my brother Pere, who was working for Nike at the time, told me about Iniesta”, said Guardiola.
“I was still playing for Barcelona myself and he said: ‘Pep, you’ve got to come and see this kid.’ It was before the final of the Nike Cup. I remember getting changed quickly after training and rushing there, dashing to the stadium.”
“And yes, I saw how good he was. I told myself: ‘This kid will play for Barcelona, for sure…he’s going to make it.’ I told myself that, and I told Pere that too”, revealed the former Bayern Munich boss in a biograhy on Iniesta titled, ’The Artist: Being Iniesta’.
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