A photo surfaced this summer. A similar one was prominent 30 years ago.
The original featured Diego Maradona at the 1982 World Cup, in front of him stood a line of six Belgians almost mesmerised by the Argentinian.
This summer, at the European Championships in Ukraine and Poland, a similar photo emerged. It featured a quiet Spaniard, an adopted Catalan and a wonderful footballer.
In the photo he does not actually have possession of the ball. He is surrounded by five Italians though, attracted to him like bees to honey, wary of the damage the creative midfielder can cause given just an inch of space to manoeuvre in.
Days later, an almost identical photo emerged as the Croatians sought to combat the scorer of the World Cup's winning goal in 2010. Iniesta was unraveling as the star of the tournament.
Named Man of the Match in three of Spain's games—including the final—the 28 year-old went on to be named Player of the Tournament, with La Roja bulldozing their way to a third straight major tournament victory.
There has since been a burgeoning clamor for his crowning at an individual level. Already named Best Player in Europe by UEFA for the 2011/12 season, he faces up against Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo for the Ballon d'Or next month.
“Anyone would love to be there [the Ballon d'Or],” he told The Guardian. “Recognition is the World Cup and the European Championships. It’s a team sport and they are the team prizes. But of course it would be nice.”
His coyness hides a fiercely competitive edge, an edge that anyone needs to reach the top in their profession. Just 5'7" tall, he has been at the forefront of a generation which has seen small, technical ball-players fight back against strong, fast, box-to-box players.
Not only is he good at using the ball, passing sides to death, creating chance after chance but he is also beautifully adept at gliding passed players with what looks like minimal effort. It isn't unnoticed in the game.
"The most complete player in the Spanish side" acknowledged teammate Xavi.
“Andres doesn’t dye his hair, doesn’t wear earrings and hasn’t got tattoos. That makes him unattractive to the media but he’s the best player I have ever seen,' added former coach Pep Guardiola.
Since the summer, the boy from Fuentealbilla has continued to sizzle, working in the shadows of Lionel Messi. In club competitions, Iniesta has a pass completion rate of over 90 percent, and has already assisted eight goals in La Liga this season. (via WhoScored.com)
His fantastic performances at Euro 2012, have not fallen on deaf ears. While the usual noises ring out for Messi and Ronaldo to win the Ballon d'Or, there is a quiet contingent desperately ushering the award to Iniesta. That contingent includes many who vote.
Such high esteem is Iniesta held in within the game—Messi supporting his case too—that it really wouldn't be a shock should him named No.1.
The proof may be in the photo after all.
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