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Iniesta at the hub of Spanish hopes

SoccerNews in La Liga 9 Jun 2008

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Quietly effective and a man who gets on with the job – as well one who will force Cesc Fabregas to make do with a place on the bench Tuesday as Spain take on Russia in their Group D opener.

That's Barcelona's silky-skilled Andres Iniesta, who along with clubmate Xavi is getting ready to propel the Furia Roja to glory while Arsenal's marginalised Cesc ponders how to get a slice of the action.

Iniesta has been a regular over the past four seasons with Barcelona, with whom he won the Champions league two years ago, and what the 24-year-old lacks in stature as he stands just 1m70 he makes up for with perpetual motion.

That has allowed him to rise above the machinations of life at Barcelona, where millions of euros are shelled out summer after summer on new talent and permutations, one year's idol often proving next year's castoff.

Iniesta has been Mr Constant throughout as he and Xavi steady a ship almost overloaded with attacking talent from a solid midfield base.

That is to the advantage of Spain, whose coach Luis Aragones can call on the pair to replicate their scarlet and blue club duties in Spanish red.

Nonetheless, Iniesta will have to shift a few metres out to the right to accommodate not just Xavi but David Silva further left and the more defensive-minded Marcos Senna while Fabregas waits for four musketeers to become five – unlikely as Aragones rarely changes his system.

Iniesta says the collective interest has to take priority.

“Of course I am better in a more central role but the coach puts me where he considers I am most useful for the team. I am not going to waste time thinking about it. We are playing for the same team and not different ones.

“Every change can be favourable or prejudicial” to the team, but “I think this one will prove favourable.”

Iniesta and his colelagues are all desperate to break their international duck – Spain's last (and only) title having come at Euro 64.

He has been hoping for this moment ever since he lost the final at Under20 level to Brazil in 2003. On that occasion he was named in the team of the competition.

It was that season that he broke into the Barca team after coming through the junior ranks from age 12 and first sampled Champions League action under former coach Louis Van Gaal.

Having first been spotted in a kids tournament in the Madrid suburbs Iniesta is now fully settled at Barca and has just extended his contract to 2014

Any club wanting to prise him away beforehand will have to pay 150 million euros.

“When I say I want to spend my entire career here I mean it,” says Iniesta.

The desire to shine with Spain is no less apparent.

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