Attackers are better footballers than midfielders or defenders. That has been the motto of the modern day sport. But deep inside if we show the fortitude we know that without the midfielders the game completely changes. Yes, Messi is the biggest player in the planet right now, but he would have been a tiger inside a cage, had it not been for the midfielders that have plied in Barcelona. Well, to be very clear, one name that strikes instantly when it comes to creating chances and sublime forward passing is, Andrés Iniesta Luján.

Andrés Iniesta came through La Masia, the Barcelona youth academy, after an early emigration from his birthplace, and impressed from an early age. He made his first-team debut in 2002, aged 18 in a Barcelona side that was filled with star players already. 14 years on, tomorrow happens to be the day he turns 32.

So today we look at what some of the greatest sports players have said over the years about him:

“Iniesta’s the most inventive player in Spanish football at the moment. He’s like Harry Potter. One, two, three and whoosh… he’s past the player. It’s like he has a magic wand.” — Luis Enrique

“When he has the ball, it’s like everything else stops – like the camera is going in slow motion.” — Fernando Torres

“Iniesta doesn’t dye his hair, he doesn’t wear earrings and he hasn’t got any tattoos. Maybe that makes him unattractive to the media but he is the best.” — Pep Guardiola

“…..the one who plays this game the best is Iniesta: he knows exactly when to go forward and when to drop back. He picks the right moment to do everything: when to dribble, when to speed things up and when to slow things down. And I think that’s the only thing that can’t be taught or bought. You can learn how to shoot and how to control the ball, but being aware of everything that’s happening out on the pitch – that’s something you’re either born with or you’re not.” — Juan Roman Riquelme

“He reminds me of myself.” — Zinedine Zidane

“When I see him play these days, he reminds me of Xavi. He was always a top quality player. He started very young with us, and it’s crazy to see how he has gone on to make so much history.” — Ronaldinho

“I played him as a false winger, central midfielder, deep midfielder and just behind the striker and he was always excellent.” — Frank Rijkaard

“It’s not that difficult to play well and win titles in a team like Barcelona, but it’s in the national side where you see a player’s true class. That was the case with figures like Pele, Diego Maradona and Zinedine Zidane. With Spain, Iniesta has shown that he is among the best players of all time and that’s why I rate him higher than Messi or Ronaldo. Even though the latter two have incredible scoring records for their clubs, they still haven’t won anything with Argentina or Portugal respectively.” — Boris Becker

“Iniesta is the boyfriend that every mother wants her daughter to have. The figures over his career tell you all you need to know. He is a magical player. There are few players in the world that can compare to him.” — Sergio Ramos

We now look at some of the most important things Andrés Iniesta himself mentioned about life and his footballing world:

Perfection doesn’t exist.

I get the feeling people respect me and that there is affection for me. That makes me happy.

Small players learn to be intuitive, to anticipate, to protect the ball. A guy who weighs 90 kilos doesn’t move like one who weighs 60. In the playground I always played against much bigger kids and I always wanted the ball. Without it, I feel lost.

I like to watch soccer, no matter what teams or players are in the field.

La Masia is a place where lots of people live together but you are on your own.

If you win without sacrifice you enjoy it but it’s more satisfying when you have struggled.

Well, Happy Birthday Andrés Iniesta. This world is in dire need of carefree, unattractive footballers like you who make the game look uncomplicated, yet so exotic and exquisite.

 

Photo by NathanF

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