Sunday, June 19, 2011

Andres Iniesta

Andrés Iniesta Luján (Spanish pronunciation; born 11 May 1984) is a Spanish football player. He currently plays as a midfielder for La Liga club FC Barcelona, and the Spanish national team.Iniesta came through La Masia, the Barcelona youth academy, and impressed from an early age. He made his first-team debut in 2002, aged 18. He began playing regularly during the 2004–05 season, and has remained in the side ever since. He was an integral part of the sextuple-winning Barcelona side in 2009, the only time which a club has achieved six titles in a year.
Iniesta played for Spain at Under-16, Under-19 and Under-21 levels, before making his international debut in 2006. He was selected for the 2006 FIFA World Cup, playing one game, as Spain went out in the second round. He helped Spain qualify for Euro 2008, and played an important role in the side as they went on to win the competition, playing every game and being selected in the UEFA Team of the Tournament. Iniesta was selected for the 2010 FIFA World Cup and was a key member of the victorious Spanish side; he scored the winning goal in the final against the Netherlands, also being named Man of the Match, and was selected in the tournament's All-Star Team. He was also the Man of the Match for two other World Cup games.
Iniesta comes from a small village named Fuentealbilla in the province of Albacete, Castile-La Mancha. At the age of 12, while playing for Albacete in a junior seven-a-side tournament in Brunete, he attracted the attention of scouts from many clubs around Spain. His parents knew the FC Barcelona youth team coach, Enrique Orizaola, and he persuaded them to consider sending Iniesta to the Barcelona youth academy. Iniesta travelled there with his parents and visited La Masia, the Spanish farmhouse where the team house their young players; the trip convinced them to enroll Iniesta in the Barcelona youth ranks.Iniesta says he "cried rivers" the day he left for La Masia and struggled being separated from his parents;he was very shy and kept to himself while there.
He captained the Barcelona Under-15 team to victory in the Nike Premier Cup of 1999, scoring the winning goal in the last minute of the final, and being named player of the tournament. The trophy was presented by one of Iniesta's idols: the then first-team captain Josep Guardiola, whose poster hung above Iniesta's bed.Guardiola gave Iniesta a signed photograph dedicated to "the best player I've ever seen", and it was around this time that he reportedly said to Barcelona midfielder and then-rising star Xavi that, "You will retire me, but Iniesta will retire us both." As a manager, Guardiola would make Xavi and Iniesta the heart of his treble-winning Barcelona side of 2009, a decade after his famous prediction.
Iniesta rose through the club's youth teams and, by the age of 16, was already the key player for FC Barcelona B. Barcelona manager Louis van Gaal handed Iniesta his senior first-team debut in October 2002, in a UEFA Champions League group game against Standard Liège. He appeared ten times in the 2003–04 league, starting in five of the games and scoring once as Barcelona finished second behind Valencia CF.
In the 2004–05 season Iniesta featured in 37 out of 38 league games—more than any other player—although 25 of these were substitute appearances. He scored twice as Barcelona won La Liga. An injury to fellow midfielder Xavi at the start of the 2005–06 season allowed Iniesta more regular starts in the centre of midfield, and he continued to improve and develop.He played in 11 Champions League games, including a half-time appearance in the 2006 final to replace the injured Edmilson. His contribution to the team was praised by manager Frank Rijkaard as Barcelona won a league and Champions League double.

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