Barcelona midfielder Andres Iniesta has confirmed he's thinking about his future before he makes a decision on signing the contract renewal offered to extend his stay at the Camp Nou.
The 21-year club veteran spoke to Spanish newspaper El Pais (h/t Marca) and said he now feels things he "did not know," which may be delaying his decision to remain with the Catalan giants:
"In fact, I have not yet renewed [my contract].
"I have experienced many sensations that I did not know, but I think they are normal.
"It is a scenario that three years ago I surely could never have imagined. Let's say, I'm thinking about the future when I did not do it before."
It may be treated as alarming to hear Iniesta, the longest-serving member of Barca's first team, hinting he could jump ship in the same summer the club begrudgingly sold Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain for £200 million.
Iniesta, 33, has entered the final year of his current contract and has been missing for the start of their season due to injury, with Spanish football writer Andy West noting it's not his only absence of late:
Andy West @andywest01
Iniesta ruled out for Barcelona tomorrow night. Sadly clear we'll have to regard his presence as a bonus rather than a given from now on.2017-8-15 19:06:25
Having first arrived at the club in 1996, the playmaker has never experienced another kind of playing experience, and the "sensations" he referred to may hint at the temptation to take his trade elsewhere.
Juan Jimenez of Spanish daily AS recently mused that reported target, Nice midfielder Jean-Michael Seri, may "signal the end" of Iniesta at Barcelona, and Yahoo's Andrew Gaffney highlighted the ageing figure is no longer the asset of old:
Andrew Gaffney @GaffneyVLC
And away from the stating-the-obvious missing Neymar remark, Barça also need to address the elephant in the room: Iniesta was very poor.2017-8-13 21:59:51
New Blaugrana boss Ernesto Valverde has already endured a rocky start to his tenure at the club, replacing predecessor Luis Enrique, of whom Iniesta went on to speak highly in his interview with El Pais:
"I've always had a lot of respect for [Luis Enrique], although sometimes I did not see things like he did.
"I am clear that, at this club, you can never lose respect for people who have given their lives for the shirt.
"That should not be lost even though sometimes you get the feeling that you want it to be."
Neymar's sale precedes a convincing 5-1 defeat to rivals Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup, after which star defender Gerard Pique conceded this was the first time in his Barca career he's felt inferior to Los Blancos, per the Guardian:
“This is a long process and there is room for improvement but in the nine years that I have been here, it is the first time that I feel inferior to Madrid. We are not in the best moment, either as a team or as a club. We must stay as close as possible and keep moving forwards.”
Timing will be of utmost importance to four-time UEFA Champions League winner Iniesta in terms of dictating when he moves on from the Camp Nou, and he won't want to overstay his welcome before his own standards decline.
Jimenez wrote that the lucrative deals available in destinations such as China, the United States or Qatar—where former team-mate Xavi moved—could turn his head, and Barca may struggle to convince Iniesta a new contract is in his best interests.