Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos has hailed Spain team-mate Andres Iniesta ahead of his expected departure from Barcelona.
There may be no love lost between their two clubs, but Ramos feels his compatriot—with whom he won the World Cup and two UEFA European Championships—has not had enough recognition in his career.
Ramos spoke in the mixed zone at the Allianz Arena on Wednesday after Los Blancos took a 2-1 lead in their UEFA Champions League semi-final against Bayern Munich and said, per Marca: "If he was called Andresinho instead of Iniesta, he would have won two Ballons d'Or."
The 33-year-old will be remembered by many as one of the players of his generation, but the Ballon d'Or has been dominated by Barca team-mate Lionel Messi and Madrid talisman Cristiano Ronaldo since 2008.
Iniesta came second to Messi in 2010 on the back of playing a key role in Spain's World Cup win, which included scoring the decisive goal in the final, while in 2012 he was third behind Messi and Ronaldo.
The award is conducted by magazine France Football, and the publication's editor Pascal Ferre (h/t Lawrence Ostlere of The Independent) recently apologised to Iniesta for failing to recognise him as the world's best.
"Forgive us, Andres. For us, he wasn't just a player, he was the player. His sacrifices for the team ultimately deprived him of greater individual recognition. Of all the absences on the list of Ballon d'Or winners, his is particularly painful. We can only hope he has a special campaign at the World Cup in Russia and repair this democratic anomaly."
Last Saturday, Iniesta picked up his 31st trophy with Barcelona as he helped his side to a 5-0 victory against Sevilla in the Copa del Rey final.
Sky Sports shared a look at his goal:
As Sky Sports Statto further demonstrated, he put in an excellent overall performance, too:
Iniesta has indeed cemented himself as one of the best players never to win the award—his chances of winning one now are slim given his age, particularly as he looks set to leave Barcelona—and in any other era, it's likely he would have won it at least once.
Ramos has been on the receiving end of his midfield wizardry with Real and the beneficiary of it with La Roja, so he will know better than most just how exceptional Iniesta has been.