Lionel Messi. Xavi. Andrés Iniesta. Carles Puyol. Gerard Piqué. The list could go on and on.
The Barcelona team that dominated football from the late 2000s to the mid 2010s is one of the greatest sides ever assembled in terms of trophies won, but they will also be remembered for the style of football that they treated us to.
Johan Cruyff has long been credited with instilling Barca’s famous possession and pressing-based game that sucked the life out of opponents through intense pressure and ball retention.
And under Pep Guardiola’s management, Barca’s ‘Tiki Taka’ brand of football often put opponents on the “passing carousel” as Sir Alex Ferguson labelled it.
Their midfield trio of Xavi, Iniesta and Sergio Busquets were always a step ahead of their counterparts in the centre of the park, and when you add the firepower of Messi, Samuel Eto’o and Thierry Henry up front, there was just no stopping them at times.
Guardiola can also be credited for getting his centre-backs to be comfortable on the ball and play out from the back, whilst he also made his full-backs offensive weapons, epitomised by no one more than Dani Alves, who thought of himself as more of a right-winger.
Though Messi will often get the headlines for that team, it can be argued that Iniesta was as vital as anyone in the side, being one of the key feeders of the Argentine superstar.
The Spanish midfielder came through Barca’s La Masia youth academy and broke into the first team in 2002. In a glittering club career, he would go on to win 35 trophies, including nine La Ligas and four Champions League titles, making him the most decorated Spanish footballer of all time.
He also enjoyed huge success on the international stage with Spain, winning Euro 2008 and 2012 as well as the 2010 World Cup, scoring the winner in the final against the Netherlands.
Individually, he was unable to dethrone the likes of Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo when it came to the Ballon d’Or, though he was runner-up in 2010.
And Iniesta has now looked back on that incredible career with Barca, when he was at the heart of a team that broke record after record.
“That generation will never be repeated but what follows does not have to necessarily be worse in terms of how the club fares,” Iniesta said, per The Guardian.
“I had seen Puyol go, I had seen Víctor [Valdés] go, and then Xavi had gone… you concentrate on your own day-to-day, you still have a great team around you, top players.”
Iniesta finally called an end to his career at the Catalan giants in 2018 after making more than 650 appearances for the club.
The 35-year-old is still playing for Vissel Kobe in the J-League but he has stated that he has intentions to return to the Nou Camp in some form in the future.
“Right now, I’m trying to extend my playing career as much as possible, I want to kick a ball for as long as I can because that’s what makes me happy,” he added.
“I’ve got a contract until next year, 2021, but I’m looking at things at the end of every season and I feel good, motivated. I want to keep playing and we’re delighted to be here.
“When it [his career] does end, I have always said that I would love to go back to Barca. It all depends on how? In what role? What situation? Who is at the club? That’s some way off. But with everything I experienced there, all the feelings I have, I would love to go back.”
And with rumours flying around regarding his former midfield partner Xavi returning to the club as manager in the near future, just imagine some of the football that they could be coaching if they joined forces again.
- Sir Alex Ferguson tried to get Cristiano Ronaldo to join Barcelona instead of Real Madrid
- Gary Lineker responds after Emmanuel Petit says Lionel Messi would struggle in England
- Xavi says Barcelona haven’t had Real Madrid’s luck in the Champions League