Andres Iniesta isn't enjoying his best season at Barcelona, the club where he began his first-team career way back in 2002. His usual sharp, crisp passing and that killer ball haven't really been in evidence too much recently.
Ongoing contract talks with Barca probably haven't helped his mindset, even though Iniesta expects those talks to reach a successful conclusion, according to John Dillon of The Express.
"You have to be where you want to be, and Barca is the place for me. The club knows that and wants me to stay, so I hope and expect to spend the years I have left playing there."
Such a statement sounds fairly unequivocal, yet while his contract remains unsigned, it does give other clubs the opportunity to pitch for his services. Both Manchester United and Manchester City have already expressed an interest in taking the midfield maestro to England, per Paul Hetherington of the Daily Star.
Team-mate Victor Valdes has already made his own intentions clear. The keeper, who made his debut at Camp Nou in the same year as the 29-year-old Iniesta, has decided upon a move to pastures new and a new challenge.
Why, therefore, would Iniesta not choose a similar path? After all, this World Cup winner has also done it all at club level and has nothing left to prove in a footballing sense.
Perhaps it's the idea of being part of another "cycle" at Barcelona. A new beginning, but at home. Will the "Guardiola years" be recreated by Tata Martino, for example? Will we once again see a Barcelona side taking all before them?
Moreover, as he approaches "elder statesman" status within the side, a contribution on the coaching side isn't beyond the realm of possibility—imparting his vast knowledge to the emerging young talent is something well worthy of his continued employment in Catalonia.
Alongside Xavi Hernandez, Iniesta dictates that Blaugrana midfield, its on-pitch telepathy often a joy to behold. The product we observe on a weekly basis is the result of years of Iniesta honing his craft in the bosom of a club that has fine-tuned his talents from the very beginning.
No other club can offer him that. Money—yes. Status—yes. History and connection—no way.
One of Barca's favourite sons, lauded wherever he goes, he is to this point the best player in the world to have never won a Ballon d'Or. His continued importance to this Barcelona side can certainly help him to achieve that aim.
Barca spokesperson Toni Freixa is certainly in no doubt as to where Iniesta's future lies, per Dermot Corrigan of ESPN:
If it were not for Messi, [Iniesta] would be the best player in the world.
We value him a lot and he is essential for our project. We want to put him in the place he deserves, just behind Messi.
As Xavi's influence begins to wane and he starts to wind down his career, being used more sparingly by Tata Martino, Iniesta can step up and take the reins as the focal point of the midfield.
A more central role will allow him to display his passing range at it's fullest, and it's perhaps in that position where Iniesta will find some longevity to his game.
There really is little reason for the player to consider leaving Barcelona unless, like Valdes, he has somehow become "bored."
Lionel Messi will, no doubt, always be recognised as Barca's best-ever player. However, Iniesta still has years to write himself into the Blaugrana record books.
The thought of becoming the world's best at the world's best should drive him on to be just that.
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