Andres Iniesta is easily among the best players in football history never to win the Ballon d’Or.
In fact, some wouldn’t hesitate to list him as football’s biggest bridesmaid.
The playmaker has won it all at Barcelona and representing the Spanish national team, including four Champions League trophies and one World Cup.
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Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo aside, he is the most transcendent player the 21st century has seen. Messi would be the first to admit that he wouldn’t have enjoyed as much success if not for Iniesta being his teammate during his entire Barcelona career.
But at the age of 32, it’s time for Barcelona to start thinking of life after Iniesta. Football is a business, after all, and the Catalan giants have trophies to win. When the Spaniard begins to show a hint of deterioration, Barca chiefs will begin to plan Iniesta’s successor.
Luis Enrique has brought in Andre Gomes and Denis Suarez in the summer to provide competition in midfield. Iniesta will welcome both youngsters to the Camp Nou with open arms because he knows that they can help keep Barca at the top of European football.
The La Masia product also knows that it’ll be time to start looking for pastures new when that competition gets too much.
Speaking to reporters on Friday, Barcelona’s captain said, per Sport: “This team should always have the best players there and, to compete with them, if this makes me afraid or uncertain, I wouldn’t be here.
"I have had I-don't-know-how-many seasons at Barcelona and I've always had the sensation of the best being here."
It’s this attitude that will likely see Iniesta spend another three or four seasons in Catalonia. It’s easy to envisage his role changing to something similar to Xavi Hernandez’s during his time in Spain; influencing the game from midfield with less running and more passing.
The player added that his plan is “to be well, and train well to perform at the maximum level.”
We saw Iniesta play in a deep-midfield position for Spain at Euro 2016, and he performed magnificently in the group stages. As a result, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Enrique deploy the World Cup winner closer to the Barca defence this season.