Former World Champions Spain will be looking towards Russia this summer as a chance to regain their place at the top of world football. Having won three consecutive tournaments prior to the last World Cup (they won the Euros in 2008 and 2012, with the 2010 World Cup in between) they then dropped into the second pot of seeds at the draw for this one. With that aim in mind, head coach Julen Lopetegui took one or two gambles in the selection of his squad. Out were the likes of recognised internationals such as Alvaro Morata and Cesc Fabregas, as well as the inexperienced Marcos Alonso. Instead, some younger talent such as Marco Asensio and Saúl were included.
One name who did make it onto the squad sheet – to little or no surprise of course – was veteran stalwart Andrés Iniesta. The 34-year-old has had a relatively quiet season at Barcelona by his own standards, and it would ultimately prove to be his last at the Nou Camp. He managed to pick up 35 points for the campaign, with arguably his finest performance of the year coming in Barcelona’s 2-0 win at home against Malaga. Iniesta scored in that game – his only league goal of the season – and he earned two points for the clean sheet as well to take his total to six for the game.
When he announced back in April that he would be bringing an end to his 22-year stay in Spain to move on to pastures new, tributes began flooding in. Indeed, they have largely been flooding in ever since, and reports state that he stayed on the pitch until 1.30am after his final match, soaking in the aura and reminiscing over two glorious decades at one of Spain’s biggest clubs. Barcelona even produced a special “Iniesta Infinity” shirt in May, flipping over his trademark number eight into the infinity sign.
Iniesta will be wanting a good World Cup campaign of course, but with one eye on his new challenge in the Japanese J1 League with Vissel Kobe next season. Vissel Kobe have arguably pulled off a real coup by attracting Iniesta to the club – they finished 9th last season, but will no doubt be confident of improving upon that standing next time around with someone like Iniesta on their books.
Whether he plays a massive part in the Spanish national team at the festivities this summer or whether he is more there to lend his support and experience to the younger players in the squad, Iniesta is a player worthy of the “legend” tag being attributed to him since the announcement of his departure from the European game.
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