Barcelona is the not same without Andrés Iniesta. His absence through injury continues to be a big loss for the European champions, and the sooner he returns the better for Pep Guardiola’s team. They need him in next week’s return leg against Inter Milan at the Camp Nou.
Iniesta is the backbone of the Barca midfield, not your usual ‘big name’ player yet he’s the man behind all the sublime moves of the Barcelona team. He and his partner in crime Xavi are the quiet superstars of the Catalan outfit.
A number of Spanish football pundits and analysts, actually say the midfield duo is even more important to Barcelona’s play than Lionel Messi. In one way or another, you would feel tempted to agree with their view but again Messi seems to be in his own class of our generation.
The baby-faced Spanish international was one of the key players of Barcelona’s all-conquering season, actually before his recent catalogue if injuries, he was probably at the peak of his game, and that was the time Barcelona were most dangerous.
With Iniesta in the team, Xavi plays much better than he has been doing in the last couple of games, including the goalless draw against local rivals Espanyol in the Spanish league and the famous 3-1 loss to Jose Mourinho’s inspired Intern Milan in the Champions League semifinal, first leg at the San Siro on Tuesday.
The ‘Special One’ neutralized Barcelona’s normal neat passing game, and with that cut off the supply line to the frontline led by former Inter striker Ibrahimovic, who continues to divide opinion since his big money move last July.
In the build up to last season’s Champions League final against Manchester United, Wayne Rooney said: “Barcelona are a brilliant team and in my opinion Andrés Iniesta is the best player in the world.” And indeed Iniesta went on to cause all sorts of problems for the Red Devils in Rome. Remember this was a season that Messi was crowned the best player in Europe and the world.
If you’ve been looking at Barcelona’s games keenly, you’d see that without Iniesta, the free-flowing football Barca are famed for does not stop completely, but it does stutter at times as his understanding with Xavi is next to nothing. The pair is arguably the best in the modern game, but that’s open for debate.
No one in the Barcelona team provides a more crucial link from the midfield to attack better than the 25-year-old. When on the field, stats say he’s the most marked man in the whole team. So the fact that he has to be marked so tightly means that just by being there, Iniesta helps to free up space for his fellow attackers.
One analyst wrote that towards the end of his playing days, Pep Guardiola said to Xavi “You’re going to retire me. This lad is going to retire us all.” The lad he was referring to was Andrés Iniesta, who at the time was a 16-year-old, a product of the club’s famous academy!