Since making his debut for Barcelona in 2002, Andres Iniesta has developed into one of the Catalan club's greatest ever players.
Touted as one of the finest midfielders of his, or any generation, the Spaniard has had a key role in the countless trophies Barcelona have won over the past 15 years.
But he was earning rave reviews even before he was wowing thousands in the Camp Nou or scoring the winning goal in the World Cup final. Amongst those in awe of a young Iniesta was his future manager at Barcelona, Pep Guardiola who, in a book extract published in The Guardian today, has revealed his first impressions of the diminutive midfielder.
“Sometimes in life, it’s first impressions that count and the first impression I have of Andrés was the day my brother Pere, who was working for Nike at the time, told me about Iniesta," the current Manchester City boss explains in new book, 'The Artist: Being Iniesta'.
"I was still playing for Barcelona myself and he said: ‘Pep, you’ve got to come and see this kid.’ It was before the final of the Nike Cup. I remember getting changed quickly after training and rushing there, dashing to the stadium.
"And yes, I saw how good he was. I told myself: ‘This kid will play for Barcelona, for sure...he’s going to make it.’ I told myself that, and I told Pere that too."
Aged just 16 when he was appearing in the 1999 Nike Cup, Iniesta clearly made a big impression on Guardiola at the time for him to be so sure the youngster would make it at a club like Barcelona.
Indeed, judging from his further comments, it was a display the likes of which Guardiola had never seen before.
“On my way out of the ground after that final when Andrés was the best player on the pitch, I came across Santiago Segurola, the football writer.
"I said to him: ‘I’ve just seen something incredible.’ I had this feeling that what I’d just witnessed was unique. That was my first impression of Andrés."
So, just how good was Iniesta on that day in the Nike Cup final that it left Guardiola with such a "unique" feeling?
Here's a teenage Iniesta's highlights from that game...
Guardiola's instincts were clearly spot on as Iniesta has grown from a teenage hopeful into one of the best players on the planet.
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