Image from: fhit.es
There was a time when Iniesta was, in my opinion, Barcelona and Spain's most important player, in my opinion. He was the creative driving force whose slaloming runs would force the defence deeper creating room for Xavi Hernandez to pick passes.
The emergence of Lionel Messi has lessened his importance to Barca, and the arrivals of Luis Suarez and Neymar Jr has reduced him to a mere supporting role with club. With country, however, there is still no one taking over his mantle, offering that extra something to keep defenders off balance with a run, as well as a pass.
As you can see from the video clip above, Iniesta has the body strength to protect the ball, which is essential in the deeper role he plays, allowing him to hold off opponents and retain possession. More than that though, despite a lack of outright pace, he has a burst of acceleration that very few can live with, which enables him to get away from defenders.
Along with that acceleration he has a sublime first touch, great balance and twinkletoes, allowing him to twist, turn, knock it quickly from foot to foot or just nutmeg an apponent and use his body strength to avoid being dragged down. Along with that almost beautiful control of the ball, he is just as adept playing a quick one two and making the right run to put the opposing team on the back foot, as suddenly a number of them are caught wrong side.
Ally that to his vision, which sees him able to see the run and then have the range of passing to pick out the runner, whether he is 5 yards away or 45 yards away, and it makes him a very dangerous opponent. Despite the quality of his touch and finishing prowess, he does not score as many goals as he should, but he does tend to score when it matters.
When it matters could really sum up this extra time in the World Cup final goal he scored to win it for Spain:
Iniesta does have weaknesses defensively, he is not the best positionally, though his excellent awareness and burst of acceleration can often lead him to nip in and steal the ball or intercept a pass. Aerially he is not one of the better players in the game, and he does lack the pace to run away from defenders like Cristiano Ronaldo has.
Put the ball at Iniesta's feet though, instead of to his head, and magic happens, he is one of those players that can be truly considered a genius on the ball. He has had a very genuine case for being accepted as the best player in the world not called Messi or Ronaldo for a number of years now, all he lacks is the goals to make his case for him.
Andres Iniesta is the epitome of the modern Barca style, it is not possession for possession's sake, as so many sadly seem to think. It is possession with a purpose, not to merely keep the ball away from the opponent, it is about moving the opponents around, trying to drag them out of position, tempt them into a rash challenge or create a gap to run into.
A player like Iniesta can almost do all of that on his own:
Written by Tris Burke
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