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Eye on La Liga: Iniesta a perfect role model for others at Barcelona

Spaniard a rarity in the era of diminishing ‘one-club man’ culture

Gulf News

The worth of something or someone is often measured once it’s no longer there. Fortunately, Barcelona have been able to show Andres Iniesta exactly what he means to the club by handing him a lifetime contract.

Essentially, the midfielder won’t ever leave unless he wants to. He will be found a role once his playing days are over, and given his attachment to La Masia, the academy he joined aged 12, the likelihood is that El Ilusionista will oversee the youngsters in some way.

There are at least a couple of seasons left with which to enjoy his on-pitch talents before then, and with his appearances likely to diminish over that period, it’s about time for every man, woman and child of the Blaugrana persuasion to pay appropriate homage to one of the greatest to ever play the game.

That he’s never won a Ballon d’Or is an absolute travesty, but anyone connected with the club will look beyond what is fast becoming a meaningless award. Iniesta doesn’t need individual accolades to underscore his excellence because it’s plainly obvious what he brings to the party.

Not just on the pitch, where fairplay and respect are watchwords that the 33-year-old lives by, but off it too, Iniesta is the exemplar in all things. An unassuming, genuine family man, he is the perfect role model for others at the club, and as deserving a captain as they’ve ever had.

With Xavi having departed the scene two years ago, Iniesta has been forced to plough that midfield furrow alone, and marginalised under Luis Enrique with his influence waning, he was at a professional crossroads in the summer.

Waiting to see how he fitted into Ernesto Valverde’s master plan was a masterstroke. The new coach has since tweaked his formation to ensure that Iniesta is once again a fulcrum of the side, and with his importance restored, pen to paper swiftly followed.

The ‘one-club man’ has all but disappeared in the modern game, but riches elsewhere have never appealed to a player who considers Barcelona to be his home. He is second in the all-time appearance list (to Xavi) and with 30 trophies so far in his career, he is level with Lionel Messi on the most ever won by a player for the club.

He, as much as anyone, has defined Barcelona’s most successful era. His guile, grace and subtlety have been a joy to behold and that the club have recognised his contribution by giving him a job for life is quite correct.

We will never see his like again. Enjoy him while you can.

- The writer is an expert on Spanish football