Iniesta was as influential as ever as Barcelona romped to another Copa Del Rey title by thrashing Sevilla 5-0 at the Santiago Bernabeu. This match could very well prove to be the last meaningful match he will play for the Blaugrana. Sure, they still have 5 Liga games left but a 12-point gap at the top of the table means that Barcelona can secure the league title without even getting out of the third gear.
It is widely known that the 33-year-old could be off to the Chinese Super League at the end of the campaign but his performance level still remains top notch. As he draws closer to the end of his glittering 22-year long career at the Camp Nou, his magic will forever be missed by the Barca faithful. Here’s looking back at the 5 most accomplished performances of the most brilliant artist in an era of athletes:
Spain vs Croatia (2012) – UEFA Euros – Group Stages
Barcelona vs Juventus (2015) – UEFA Champions League – Final
Spain vs Netherlands (2010) – FIFA World Cup – Final
When I remember Iniesta, I remember the 2010 World Cup final. When he scored the one and only goal late in extra time, to make history for Spain and enchant the dynasty that changed football. pic.twitter.com/RwcCvs2pNT
— Cheema (@CheemaLFC) April 21, 2018
5- Barcelona vs AC Milan (2013)
UEFA Champions League – Round of 16 – second leg
Prior to the match, Xavi said that all his squad lacked was a famous comeback victory. After going 2-0 down at the San Siro in the first leg, Barca was up against it. A team supposedly in decline had to overturn a two-goal deficit against Milan who was desperately trying to delay the ‘end of an era’. What happened at the Camp Nou, however, showed the world that Barcelona still is one of the best around. They passed Milan out of the game on their way to a 4-0 win.
Messi scored a brace while David Villa and Jordi Alba also got on the scoresheet as the Catalans completed their most famous remontada yet. Iniesta got an assist but his influence was not limited to just stats. He had a hand to play in every attack, staring them, letting the irresistible Barca flow. His presence on the pitch ensured that Barcelona secured another famous yet comfortable win.
4- Barcelona vs Paris Saint-Germain (2015)
UEFA Champions League – Quarter-final – second leg
Iniesta rolled back the years as Barcelona romped through to the semis en route to an unprecedented third treble. After a comfortable 3-1 win at Parc Des Princes, the Catalans came into the home leg with the wind in their sails. Although the French giants will realistically still in the tie, a 13th-minute pirouette beyond the onrushing Yoann Cabaye left the Camp Nou gasping for breath.
A magical dribble and a beautifully weighted pass later Barca had their opening goal of the match as Neymar slotted past the hapless Salvatore Sirigu. Iniesta ran the show that night as all hopes of a comeback were crushed. Barcelona ran out comfortable 2-0 winners at the end as Iniesta put in a mesmerising display in front of his home crowd.
3- Barcelona vs Chelsea (2009)
UEFA Champions League – Semi-final – second leg
‘That’ night at the Stamford Bridge is remembered for many more reasons than Iniesta’s performance. Although he did score the match-winning goal that ensured an encounter with Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United in the final, match referee Tom Henning Ovrebo hogged all the headlines thanks to a host of disastrous decisions.
The little Spaniard did the only thing that could not have been questioned by any viewer; he put the ball into the back of the net. After being set up by Lionel Messi on the edge of the box, Iniesta’s rifle of a shot into the top left corner just minutes before the final whistle broke thousands of blue hearts. Throughout this mayhem of a match, Iniesta did not put a foot wrong and showed up when it mattered the most.
2- Barcelona vs Manchester United (2011)
UEFA Champions League – Final
In a replay of the final of two years ago, Pep Guardiola’s all-conquering took on Manchester United who came looking for revenge. There was to be none however as the Catalans were at their imperious best and ran out comfortable 3-1 winners. After the match, Sir Alex Ferguson said, “Nobody’s given us a hiding like that, but they deserve it. In my team as manager, it’s the best team I’ve faced.”
Xavi and Iniesta formed the heartbeat of this team. The duo shared a total of 60 passes and also fed the ball to Lionel Messi a total of 55 times. Xavi, as usual, had a more withdrawn role than his compatriot. On his own, Iniesta had 127 touches of the ball with a 93% passing accuracy. He also assisted Messi for the match-winning goal.
1- Barcelona vs Real Madrid (2015)
La Liga – First El Classico of the season
This was one of those rare occasions in which the Santiago Bernabeu stood on its feet to applaud an opposition player. Such was Iniesta’s brilliance that he became only the fourth Barca player to receive a standing ovation from Real’s tough-to-please home fans. It was the first time that he took on the role of Barcelona’s captain and in his 77 minutes on the pitch, Iniesta had produced one of the best performances of his storied career.
The World Cup winner scored one and assisted another as Barca completely dominated a hapless Real Madrid. Messi did not feature from the start but he was not required to do so with Neymar and Suarez linking up beautifully in the final third. The Classico set the tone for the entire season as Barca ended up winning another treble while Real finished the season empty-handed.
It was very difficult to pick just 5 out of the bunch of brilliant performances that Iniesta has put in over the course of his astonishing career. It is an atrocity that the man never won a Ballon d’Or. Now that he is about to call a time on his top-level career, his absence will be sorely felt around the football world.
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