It is a true privilege to be living in a footballing era that is witnessing so many great players at the same time.
The debate surrounding who is the greatest footballer of this generation (and perhaps of all time) is usually focused on the two heavyweights of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
The two rival players are undoubtedly the two standout names whose influence on the game and vastly superior goal records mark them out as almost super-human athletes.
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While there are some footballers who continue to dazzle us with their ability to perform incredible tricks and score some sumptuous goals, there are others who are the masters of the basics.
Alongside his former teammate, Xavi; the classy Italian, Andrea Pirlo and Englishman Paul Scholes; Andres Iniesta is widely regarded as the best creative central midfielder of all time.
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Standing at 5’7”, the Barcelona number eight is not a physically dominant midfielder and does not possess any great pace to be able to sprint past any defender in the world.
What Iniesta lacks in physical prowess and speed, however, he more than makes up for in his ability to perform two basic footballing skills better than the vast majority of other players: ball retention and passing.
The late, great Dutch maestro, Johan Cruyff once stated: “Technique is not being able to juggle a ball 1,000 times… Technique is passing the ball with one touch, with the right speed, at the right [correct] foot of your team mate.”
Passing the ball appears to be the simplest of techniques in football, but it is widely regarded by the professionals to be the toughest to perfect.
Andres Iniesta is one of those few players who is a true master of the pass and this has been on beautiful display, once again, at Euro 2016 as the 32-year-old has gone on to give two exceptional performances for his country.
In Spain’s first group game against the Czech Republic last Monday, it was Iniesta who provided the all-important assist to break the deadlock between the two teams, curling a perfectly weighted cross towards the far post for Gerard Pique to head in the winning goal in a 1-0 win for the defending champions.
On Friday night’s second game for Spain against Turkey, Iniesta was, yet again, a delight to watch.
He finished the game with a superb pass-completion rate of 94% (with 93 out of 99 successful passes), but it was his through-ball in the second half that was his moment of magic.
The Barcelona captain played a delightful ball with the inside of his right foot that split the Turkish defence and allowed Jordi Alba to receive the ball and play a simple square pass to give striker Alvaro Morata the easiest of tap-ins to make the score 3-0.
Iniesta will never be credited with the assist in the history books, but it was a great example of him doing what he does better than anyone else that led to Spain’s third goal in the game.
Barcelona and Spain have been privileged to have had two of the greatest creative midfielders of all time in the squad during the same era, Xavi and Iniesta.
Both players are pass masters and they excel in doing the basics better than anyone else in the world.
The two former teammates are also, arguably, two of the most intelligent central-midfielders the footballing world has ever seen with both players able to spot, and play, the right pass at the right time to give their teammates the opportunity to score.
It continues to be a pleasure to witness Iniesta at work on a football field and he is certainly a player who fans should cherish and enjoy while he is still at the top of his game.
There is so much emphasis on flair players who can perform flicks and tricks with most young footballers wanting to be Messi, Ronaldo, Neymar or Pogba when they play in the park or the playground.
While these players are the superstars of the footballing world, it is hoped that there will continue to be young, aspiring footballers who want to be an Iniesta or Xavi as well.
Flair players are the exciting ones to watch, but there is also a certain beauty in those players who excel in performing the basics such as passing.
Iniesta is one of those players who has turned passing into a true art-form.
Let’s hope that Andres Iniesta is not the last of his kind at the top level as he continues to conduct both Barcelona and Spain with the ball at his feet from the middle of the park.
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