Andres Iniesta is, by definition, one of Barcelona’s “untouchables.” Captain of the side, old twinkle toes is exemplary both on the pitch and off of it.
It’s impossible to dislike the man from Fuentebilia who won the World Cup for Spain in 2010. Whose last-gasp strike at Stamford Bridge in May 2009 was the pivotal moment for Barcelona on the way to their first treble.
If there is a model for the antithesis of the modern footballer, Iniesta is it. Shunning nightclubs, bars and the like, “El Illusionista” likes nothing better to spend nights in with his family.
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No airs or graces, just an ordinary Spanish life set against the backdrop of his extraordinary talent.
But whisper it quietly… Could Iniesta be expendable? It feels almost sacrilegious to even suggest it but the possibility has to be considered. Not only is he getting older, but there is enough talent waiting in the wings to arguably make any transition seamless.
Let’s be clear. This won’t be an overnight switch. Don Andres is far too important to the club and its fan base to be discarded like an old rag.
However, the passing of the baton needs to be managed with aplomb so why not begin the process now?
Arda Turan still has another three and a half months to wait, at the time of writing, before he can pull on the Blaugrana in earnest.
He represents a different style of midfield excellence, but no less effective. Ditto Ivan Rakitic. Lest we forget too that Barca will be like kids in a candy store come January.
With the FIFA-imposed transfer ban at an end, the club will be able to purchase whosoever they wish, and arguably midfield is one area to make improvements.
The decision to ease Iniesta aside won’t be met with universal approval. Far from it. Like Xavi before him, the very fabric of La Masia is woven deep into Iniesta’s psyche.
Taking a little piece of history away from a player that has always aimed to provide his very best work will never be a popular decision.
But since when have any board worried about the populist vote? A board of directors is elected for their capabilities in running a tight ship, not to be popular.
Much has been made of Iniesta’s inability to score and assist across long periods of the season. With the greatest of respect, what other club do you know that would allow an attacking midfielder, however good, to be the first choice if he had not scored or assisted for months on end?
The answer is completely obvious. None. Zero. Nada. Zilch. Just because he remains an exemplary individual, doesn’t take away from the fact that he is not doing what he is handsomely remunerated for.
Perhaps it’s time for some hard-nosed decision making in the corridors of Camp Nou? Could Iniesta be expendable?