Ernesto Valverde Won't Lean on Andres Iniesta over Barcelona Contract

Matt JonesFeatured ColumnistSeptember 12, 2017

(L-R) Andres Iniesta of FC Barcelona, coach Ernesto Valverde of FC Barcelona during the Trofeu Joan Gamper match between FC Barcelona and Chapecoense on August 7, 2017 at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain.(Photo by VI Images via Getty Images)
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Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde has said he will not force Andres Iniesta into signing a new contract at the Camp Nou. 

The iconic Barca midfielder has less than a year to run on his current deal, prompting concerns this season may be his last at the club. Yet, when asked about Iniesta's contract situation, Valverde was relaxed.

"Everyone owns their own life," he said, per Sport. "My intention is that Andres feels wanted, he finds himself happy here and giving his all. But not just with Andres, the rest too."

According to a report from Tuttosport (h/t Football Espana) earlier this month, Juventus are considering a move for Iniesta on a potential free transfer should he fail to agree terms with Barcelona on an extension.

Per Dom Farrell of Goal, the Spain international denied there was a deal in place for him to extend his contract at the Camp Nou.

"I am not clear when I will make the decision," he said. "I do not think about it. My head, my heart and my body will decide."

BARCELONA, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 09: Andres Iniesta Lujan (L) of FC Barcelona fights for the ball with Papakouli Diop (R) of RCD Espanyol during the La Liga match between FC Barcelona vs RCD Espanyol at the Camp Nou on 09 September 2017 in Barcelona, Spain. (
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As relayed by Sid Lowe of the Guardian, Iniesta had earlier dismissed suggestions from club president Josep Maria Bartomeu that an "agreement in principle" had been struck:

Iniesta is rated as one of the finest footballers to have played for Barcelona and has long been associated with the team's traditions. 

A graduate of the club's La Masia academy, he went on to establish himself as a first-team regular and blossomed into one of the best midfielders in world football. Iniesta's close control, change of pace and ability to find passes in the final third make him such a difficult opponent to pin down.

Granted, now 33, his best years are behind him, and it's clear throughout the rest of his career his minutes will need to be managed. Valverde said as much.

"We will see the plan I have with Iniesta as it goes, in terms of rest," he said. "I'm not forgetting the power Andres has, and the fact he can come in after a break."

BARCELONA, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 11:  Head coach Ernesto Valverde of FC Barcelona faces the media during a press conference, on the eve of their UEFA Champions League Group D match against Juventus, on September 11, 2017 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by Alex C
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As noted by journalist Graham Hunter, Iniesta was part of the iconic 2008-09 Barcelona team that passed and pressed opposition teams with an incredible ferocity and is still a key man now:

Indeed, Barcelona are still at their best when the great man is pulling the strings at the heart of the midfield. It means talk about a potential exit will concern Cules.

Not only can Iniesta still influence matches at the highest level, he's an embodiment of the Barcelona way. Any young player currently in La Masia should consider the midfielder an example to follow, and it's important the Blaugrana keep figures of such esteem around for as long as possible.

In January, Iniesta will be permitted to discuss a pre-contract with other clubs, potentially paving the way for a summer exit. Barcelona fans will be a little nervous looking ahead to 2018 as long as an extension remains unsigned by the veteran.