Andres Iniesta – a class apart (Video)

UEFA are criticised for many things but in their recognition of Andres Iniesta as the Best Player in Europe award for the 2011-12 season, ahead of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, the organising body should be applauded.

In equalising against Celtic in the Champions League this week, the Spanish maestro showed the world once again just why he deserves to win the Balon d’Or above anyone else. Messi and Ronaldo may get all the headlines and rightly so, considering their quite amazing goalscoring fetes in recent years, but in terms of pure talent and ability to control and influence matches, there are not many who can match Iniesta.

The archetypal big-game player, superb for Spain in Euro 2008, in World Cup 2010 where he scored the winner in the final against Holland and again at Euro 2012 where although he did not score, his dazzling displays saw him voted the best player of the tournament.

For his club, Iniesta struggles to get quite the headlines he gets when he turns out in the red of his country, simply due to the fact that Messi is alongside him. However, let us not forget that this is a man who often digs Barcelona out of trouble on the rare occasions that Messi does not shine. Take the 2009 Champions League Semi-Final against Chelsea where with Messi subdued, it was Iniesta who thumped Pep Guardiola’s side into the final where he would combine with Xavi to mesmerise Manchester United into submission.

The goal against Celtic was classic Iniesta: running with the ball at speed with impeccable close-range technique, swapping passes with Xavi in a razor-sharp one-two before finishing clinically into the bottom corner despite half-slipping as he struck the ball. Poetry in motion, a work of art, whatever cliche you want to throw at it – it was all of them.

The story goes that in his playing days Guardiola once took a young Xavi aside and told him “you will retire me, but him [pointing at Iniesta], he will retire us both.” High praise indeed and whether he wins the Balon d’Or or not, no football observer will ever have even half a doubt about the level of Iniesta’s achievement or quality and at still only 28, there will surely be more to come.

Adam Mazrani