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Andres Iniesta's Day in the Sun: Barcelona Midfielder Wins UEFA Player Award

MADRID, SPAIN - AUGUST 29: Andres Iniesta of FC Barcelona controls the ball during the Supercopa second leg match between Real Madrid and Barcelona at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on August 29, 2012 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images
alex bakerContributor IIIAugust 30, 2012

Andres Iniesta was recognized as the UEFA player of the year today at the Champions League draw in Monaco.

Onstage next to the strapping Cristiano Ronaldo, with his gelled hair and pretty boy looks, and the diminutive Leo Messi, with his weak chin and boyish demeanor, Iniesta looked almost as though he'd been stood up there for filler, like the extra man in a police lineup.

But he was without a doubt the most deserving of the three players for this award. The pale-faced assassin only slightly taller than Messi and with a hairline like Landon Donovan is not as glamorous as the other two finalists for the award.

And when it comes to the conversation about who is the best in Europe, he's generally overlooked for Ronaldo and Messi.

But not today.

Sure, Messi scored 73 goals for Barcelona and Ronaldo's tally of 60 propelled Real Madrid to their first La Liga crown in the Guardiola era (Is it a coincidence that Pep quit the club within a few days of the season ending?). 

But Andres Iniesta—short, pale, balding Iniesta—helped propel Spain to victory in the Euros this summer, just as he did in the World Cup two years earlier. And Iniesta, who can corner like a Porsche with the ball at his feet, has been there all along during Barcelona's nearly four-year run as the best club side in the history of the world.

He might not enjoy the glamor and the headlines afforded to Messi, or even David Villa, but Iniesta, a product of Barca's La Masia Academy, has been the very heart and soul of the great Blaugrana and Spain teams of the last few years.

Tears gleamed in his eyes as he stood on the podium with his award. It was as though he'd been resigned that it would go to Ronaldo or Messi.

Even after his name was revealed etched on the back of the trophy, he moved slowly to take it off Sepp Blatter, as if he wasn't sure what he'd just heard.

In the spotlight, this awkward little Spainiard who moves with a combination of fury and poetry on the pitch—this embodiment of the collective spirit that is Barcelona and Spain—finally had his moment of individual glory.

Behind him, Ronaldo looked predictably smug. He'd been seated with what looked like a pair of European super-models. Iniesta was with his beautiful wife, Ann Ortiz.

Messi, on the other hand, looked to have attended the whole thing stag and swayed back and forth awkwardly onstage, looking as though he'd rather have been off kicking a football somewhere. Up there on the glittering stage with Steve McManaman and all the rest of them, he didn't appear the least bit bothered to have lost out to his teammate.

And why should he? Messi knows there are plenty more individual honors headed his way.

But today was Andres Iniesta's day, and it's one that he has deserved for some time.

Bravo Iniesta, bravo.

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