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Barcelona Are Right to Tie Down Unique Andres Iniesta on a Long-Term Deal

VALENCIA, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 01:  Andres Iniesta of Barcelona runs with the ball during the La Liga match between Valencia CF and FC Barcelona at Estadio Mestalla on September 1, 2013 in Valencia, Spain.  (Photo by Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images)
Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images
Sam TigheWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterSeptember 9, 2013

According to Sky Sports, Barcelona president Sandro Rosell is in the process of drafting up a new contract for Andres Iniesta.

The midfield star's current deal expires in the summer of 2015 and would take him through to the age of 31, but an additional three years appear to be on the table for the former La Masia youth product.

"Iniesta is a key player for us," Rosell told TV3 programme Hat-Trick. "It is likely that the next great news for Barcelona will be the renewal of his contract."

Key player is probably an understatement, as the quick feet and phenomenal passing range of "Andresito" have helped guide els Blaugrana to unprecedented success in recent years.

Not only does the intention to secure his services up to the age of 34 signal intense loyalty to the boy from Albacete, it also signals the hierarchy's intent to continue the Xavi and Iniesta midfield legacy for several more seasons.

Thiago Alcantara has gone, and while Cesc Fabregas is flourishing, no one in world football can offer the equivalent of what Iniesta does—he boasts one of the most unique skill sets this game has ever seen.

Both Iniesta and Xavi have played a lot of games over the past three years, and the natural decline of Barcelona's astonishing dominance has prompted suggestions that these two are over the hill.

Indeed, ask a lay football fan how old they think Andresito is, and they'll invariably answer "around 32?" Ask them how he plays, and they'll likely offer up a suggestion based on "passing teams to death."

Iniesta is an incredibly capable passer—both short and long—but he simply cannot be pigeonholed into a single category such as this.

In Barca's midfield three, he's been the driving force, the one who breaks forward and opens up defensive system when tiki-taka fails.

He may be diminutive, even small, but he's got some of the quickest feet in the business and draws defenders out. So effective in the dribbling game is he, both Spain and Barca have felt it appropriate to try him out wide on the left-hand side.

It felt as though Cesc was being groomed to replace Iniesta and Thiago was set to take on Xavi's position. But with Thiago in Bavaria, Cesc could well be in for a role switch.

Such is the former Arsenal man's progress in adapting to the system at Camp Nou, fans are starting to wonder if he's the best No. 10 in world football. If he's not there, he's close, and the fact that Xavi is being rested by Gerardo Martino in favour of Cesc suggests he believes in him too.

Andresito's game is not built on natural athleticism or burst, more technical talent and a deep understanding of how to manipulate space. His quick feet get him out of tight situations, but he could well continue his current role in Barca's 4-3-3 into his mid-30s.

Barca's actions—namely periodically resting Xavi, giving Cesc as much game time as possible and securing Iniesta long-term—point to the fact that Iniesta is now more important than Xavi in the lineup.

Xavi visibly struggled toward the end of last season and should have been benched for Thiago in less important games. With Cesc's rise, he is now getting that rest, and while still integral to the locker room, Andresito may well have usurped him.

 

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