Iniesta: “We want Pep to leave with a smile”

Iniesta:  “We want Pep to leave with a smile”

Andres Iniesta recently sat down with La Vanguardia to discuss a range of topics: upcoming challenges for the team, the Copa del Rey final, important goals, the significant role Guardiola has played in his rise, Barça’s future with Tito Vilanova, and the experience of being a father. Excerpts from the interview can be found after the jump.

Athletic arrive to the final of the Copa del Rey with ambition to end a period of 28 years without a title, after two lost finals: the Copa del Rey against Barcelona in 2009 and the Europa League against Atletico Madrid. What motivates Barcelona?

There is a title at stake, and this should be the main motivation for us. We want to finish the season with a good taste in our mouths and we have the chance to win the Copa del Rey. If we succeed, that will make this season great even after losing the two most prestigious titles, but we must not forget that if we lift the Copa del Rey we will have four trophies, maybe less prestigious, but also important, and we have been fighting until the very end of the League and we were eliminated in the semifinals of the Champions League. The team did a great job again, except this time the details and situations were not on our side or we have not done enough to use those in our favour.

With so many injuries in defense, is this final [centered around the] attack?

It’s a pity that we can not play with Dani, Puyi or Abidal. But it is the last game and we have to make this last effort with the people we have [fit to play]. Attack is our way of playing, our style and we have been doing it for these 4 years. Against Athletic we must play as we did last time. It will be essential to have the ball so they do not play an intense match, they all attack. If you do not control the ball, such a game is much more difficult.

How do you see Guardiola after announcing he won’t continue? Did you expect such a decision?

I see him exactly the same. No change. It’s a decision he took. We had the illusion that he could be with us much longer because things are going very well. It’s what we all wanted but the last two days before the announcement we saw that he probably wouldn’t continue.

Do you remember the first thing he said four years ago?

The first day we met, Pep was thrilled, he looked overjoyed, he is not like that right now. We were down, that injection of enthusiasm he gave to the team was and is fundamental. Then I had the feeling that everything started going well.

Guardiola gave you as an example because you don’t wear piercings or have dyed hair and do not complain if you play for only 20 minutes. What would you add to this statement?

It’s not like that that one who wears earrings can’t be an example. It is a reflection of what he feels and sees in me. He feels good about what I do and how I am, nothing more.

What have you learned from him?

A lot. My challenge is to become a better player every year, and thanks to him I think I have succeeded. I improved in every aspect of the game, understanding football, reading situations of danger, knowing what to do in every moment. All these things I have learned through training, advice, listening.

The triumphant cycle began with the Copa del Rey. Would it be nice to close the circle with another Copa?

It is true that the first title we won was in a game against Athletic and now, rules of football, gave us this coincidence to fight for the last one also against Athletic. It is better to go with a victory and joy than with the feeling of loss. The opinion inside the locker room about Guardiola and his feeling for us won’t change much with a triumph or loss, because our feelings are clear, but certainly we want Guardiola to leave with a smile.

Now it’s time for Tito Vilanova. How would you define him?

The main thing is that he is a person who has been in the dressing room all this time. So he knows how it all works, the players and the style. He was a player, and that’s important. Tito is very aware of the details. But so far he was the assistant of Guardiola and although he helped Pep a lot,  he hasn’t got the external responsibility. Now it’s his chance, but we can not pretend he is another Guardiola. Each coach has his own style and characteristics. While on the pitch we will follow the same style, he can’t be asked to repeat the treble in the first year. All the players have to be on his side, support him, help him, if we are not already.

How has your life changed in your first year as a father of your daughter Valeria?

I have to get more back massages because I always have to pick her up and carry her (laughs). Everything is better. I really enjoy the moment. It is a joy that changes me. Now with her, life has meaning. It is another dimension of life that is very rewarding. When I’m with her I forget about everything, time, mobile and football.

Source:; Picture credit: David Airob