Disclaimer: I don't think Andrés Iniesta is the world's greatest footballer; Lionel Messi is. This article merely offers reasons why an argument can be made that the Barcelona midfielder is the best player in the world.
FC Barcelona is the best team in the world, and Lionel Messi is the world's best player. This is pretty much consensual among football circles, but while Messi is undoubtedly an absolutely amazing player, he's playing next to equally uber-talented players.
One of them is Andrés Iniesta, who might just be the world's best player. And here is why...
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Supremely talented players like Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have often been accused of underperforming with their national teams.
Both these players do great with their clubs, but can't reproduce the same kind of form with their national teams. For several reasons, Messi, despite being widely considered the world's best player, hasn't managed to have a big impact with Argentina.
The same can't be said about Andrés Iniesta.
The Spaniard is just as brilliant at the international level as he is with Barcelona. After all, he was arguably Spain's best player in the World Cup, even scoring the winning goal in the final, not to mention his fabulous performance in the Euro 2008.
If a great international career is a requirement to be the best, Iniesta's is as good as they get.
As far as international football is concerned, he has a clear edge on his teammate Lionel Messi.
Some of the world's top players (namely Cristiano Ronaldo) are often guilty of letting the occasion get to them and not perform to their usual standards in the most important matches.
With Iniesta, it's just the contrary.
He has that Jordanesque ability to actually raise his performance in the most important stages. He was Man of the Match in the World Cup final, he scored an epic goal in the last minute at Stamford Bridge to take Barcelona to the 2009 Champions League final, he had two top performances in the Champions League finals, etc...
The bigger the occasion, the more Iniesta tends to take over games and shine.
He might not score many goals, but he does score when it matters the most. More importantly, he manages to take over matches and lead his team to victory in the most important occasions.
Iniesta started his career as a defensive midfielder, then became a center midfielder and finally the finest attacking midfielder on the planet. He also excels on both wings, meaning that he can play five different positions.
While he's at his best playing as an attacking midfielder, he's also world class in the other four positions. It's hard to find another player in the world who can be so good at so many different positions.
Besides, Iniesta's game is as complete as it gets. He might not be as good a dribbler as Lionel Messi, but he's pretty damn close; his dribbling in close spaces is truly a sight to behold.
His vision might not be as good as Xavi Hernandez's, but again he's close. He doesn't score as often as Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, but he's not a terrible finisher either, and he has a pretty good shot from distance.
He might not the best at any particular skill, but he's among the best at several important ones and is pretty much at least competent in every single aspect of the game.
Iniesta was voted as the fourth best player in 2009, the second best in 2010 and will again be at the top in 2011. He has been great every year since he became a key member of the Barcelona team.
Just like his teammate Xavi Hernandez, Iniesta rarely, if ever, has a bad game. He's one of the most consistent performers in the world, delivering top performances week in week out.
He has been at the very top of the game for three years now, and he doesn't look like slowing down. At only 27, we might not yet have seen the best Iniesta has to offer.
Casual football fans tend to prefer high-scoring players like Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. After all, their game is flashy and has a more noticeable end product. It's hard for a player like Iniesta, who doesn't score many goals, to be widely recognized as the world's best.
However, fellow football players and managers have a different sensibility, and some have offered Iniesta some very high praise. For instance, the likes of Samuel Eto'o and Wayne Rooney have hailed Don Andrés as the world's best player, which definitely means something coming from two of the world's best strikers.
Croatian football legend Robert Prosinecki was asked to choose between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, and he said he'd choose Iniesta. The Ballon d'Or results in recent years also prove that Iniesta is very highly rated (and deservedly so) by his peers.
For those who skipped the initial disclaimer, I, like most people, believe that Lionel Messi is this generation's greatest player and the current best player in the world. But I also believe that an argument can be made in favor of some other players, one of them being Andrés Iniesta.
While Lionel Messi deserves all the accolades he gets, even the Argentine would admit that he benefits from Iniesta's extraordinary play (just like Iniesta benefits from Messi). It's not absurd to claim that Iniesta might just be the world's best.
You can follow me on Twitter @Manueltraquete.