The news that Andres Iniesta has been stricken by a bout of gastroenteritis and will miss the build up to the European Championships, will be a bitter blow to the Spanish players, management and fans. The Barcelona star should be fit for the tournament, but is unlikely to be in peak condition for the opener against Russia next week.
This has been a season to forget for many of the superstars at Barcelona. However, whilst the likes of Ronaldinho, Thierry Henry and Samuel EtoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢o have been doing their best to undo their reputations, one player has continued to go from strength to strength. Andres Iniesta has been something of an unsung hero and may just be the one to watch as Spain attempt to win their first major tournament for forty-four years.
Although Spain has an enviable embarrassment of riches in the midfield area with Xavi, Cesc Fabrigas and Fernando Alonso all fighting for places in the team, Iniesta can often be a crucial cog in the engine room of the side.
At twenty-four years old, pale and only 5Ã¢â‚¬â„¢8Ã¢â‚¬Â tall, Andres Iniesta does not easily fit the stereotype of the superstar international footballer. In a dressing room full of great players, worldwide fame and huge egos, Iniesta is the quiet man. A family man who still lives with his parents. He goes about his job in an effective and uncomplaining way despite often being played out of position for club and country to accommodate other more celebrated players.
This season has really been the first in which he has been a regular starter since making his debut under Louis Van Gaal at the age of eighteen in 2002. He has played many games in the intervening years, but often appearing from the bench. Now he has made a place in the Barcelona starting eleven his own, although that could be as a defensive midfielder, a playmaker, an attacking midfielder or even out wide.
Wherever Iniesta plays for the team he always does an uncomplicated and efficient job. He has the knack of always finding time on the ball and rarely giving it cheaply to the opposition. He is the perfect exponent of the Ã¢â‚¬Ëœpass and moveÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ game, thinking and moving with a sharp and clever mind.
He was a very successful youth player and was spotted by Barcelona at the age of twelve. He worked his way up through the ranks and age-groups at the Camp Nou representing the Spanish under sixteen and under nineteen teams when they won the Uefa European Championships. In 2003, he played for Spain when they were the beaten finalists in the youth World Cup.
Now, with twenty three full Spanish caps and over two hundred Barcelona appearances to his name he is established as one of SpainÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s top players. His goal tally of eighteen for his club and five for Spain is an area in which he would like to improve.
When you watch either Barcelona or Spain play at their best other players often receive the plaudits for pieces of brilliance they produce. A moment of magic from Lionel Messi at Barca or a wonderful finish by Fernando Torres for the national team. It is rare that people leave the ground talking about Iniesta.
However, if you analyse most games you will see that Iniesta has played an integral part. His time, space, ability to find a teammate with a pass and his decision making are all things that keep the team together and make them play better. A team with Iniesta in it is better than a team without him. It is as simple as that.
Andres Iniesta has captained the Spanish under twenty-one side on many occasions and has established himself as an integral part of the full Spanish side. The goals he scored and created in the qualification to this yearÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s European Championship played a big part in their success.
Despite being only twenty-four years old, Iniesta already has two La Liga winners medals, two Supercopa de Espana winners medals and is a Champions League winner. Add those to the medals he has gathered playing for the age-group Spanish teams and he is a very successful player indeed.
If he is to add a Uefa European Championship winning medal to his collection he is unlikely to be saluted as the man who made it happen. That attention will be given to Torres or Casillas, Xavi, Fabrigas or Villa. They are all great players who would deserve the recognition. However, they will be better players because of the unassuming contribution made by a quiet and shy player who has the ability to make the team tick.
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