totalBarça is privileged to be part of the culé community. It is an even greater privilege when others who have passionate properties dedicated to FC Barcelona are willing to share with us their offerings.
Tom is the owner and operator of BarcaBlog.com and he recently approached us. We are pleased to share this article by him – it is a tribute to Andresito (Andres) Iniesto based on how Tom himself, and his cousin, were acquainted with Iniesta during their younger years.
We hope you enjoy the story and trip through Tom’s memory lane.
The Rise – and Rise – of Andresito Iniesta
It has come to a point that every football lover around the world (unless they are frustrated Madridistas in denial) seems to agree with what I have known for many years: Andres Iniesta is a gift to football, a legendary symbol of what it means to be Blaugrana and living the dream from a very early age.
I was privileged enough to witness Andresito’s arrival at La Masia, as my cousin also played for the Barça Under-11s at the time – which, as you can imagine, we are and still are very proud of in my family!
It was another ordinary autumn day, or so we all thought. My cousin had attended school as he always did, then got picked up by the Barça van in the El Valles area (which is the regular mode of transport for youngsters who don’t live in La Masia, such as Cesc or Xavi, regularly used to access the Mini Estadi training area).
That one day was about to change FC Barcelona’s history forever: There was a tiny, pale, very quiet new kid in the team. He timidly explained his name was Andresito and had just moved to Barcelona from Albacete. He didn’t say much more, but he didn’t need to. Once training began, we all clearly saw that diminutive boy was destined for stardom.
Playing as a classic Barça ‘4’ (meaning, the organizing midfielder who is positioned just in front of defense and distributes the ball forward), it felt like another talented Milla, Amor or Guardiola was on the way. We only saw him play a short 25 minutes match, but it was obvious the boy was extraordinary.
Andresito’s first big tournament with Barca came at the Brunete Futbol 7 Under-11s International in the Christmas break of 1996. There was great expectation to see what the youngster could produce for the Blaugrana after impressing with Albacete in the National version of the tournament, which was played a mere four months before then.
Our Barça Alevines faced the likes of Everton, Red Star Belgrade, Benfica and Real Madrid in the first round, qualifying second after a painful 1-3 defeat to Los Blancos in the last group match – which somehow affected our team’s morale ahead of the knock-out phase the next day.
Despite young Andres having a starring role, giving many assists and scoring some crucial goals, the team coached by Albert Benaiges (now working as academy director at Al Wasl, directly under Diego Armando Maradona) was knocked out by Athletic Bilbao in the semis after a tight but disheartening penalty shootout – with Andresito calmly converting his, of course.
That Brunete tournament was the first of many top level competitions for the pale midfielder as a Blaugrana. The International Nike Premier Cup came a couple of years after. Again, he excelled. After leading the Barça U-15s to victory and scoring the winner in the final minute, he was chosen Best Player of the entire tournament. His skills kept reminding everyone who knew him of a better version of Pep Guardiola, who was captaining Barça’s first team at the time and, perhaps not coincidentally, famously presented young Andres with his latest trophy.
It was only a matter of time until young Andres received a call to join the Spanish national team, where he connected with the electric Fernando Torres from Atletico de Madrid. What mighty duo that was! The pair went on to win the U-16s European Championships in 2001 and had another taste of glory in the U-19s Euros one year after.
Andresito Iniesta’s fame kept rising to unlimited heights when Van Gaal made him debut in the Champions League against Club Brugge in late 2002, at only 18 years of age. He shared the dressing room with experienced stars such as Frank De Boer, Luis Enrique, Overmars, Kluivert or Cocu but he didn’t seem to care. Quiet during team talks, loud and confident on the ball.
The rest is now history: His commanding performance against Milan in the 2006 Champions League semis, his overtime screamer which defeated Hiddink’s Chelsea in 2009, his 2010 World Cup final winner despite a terrible year full of injuries and personal trouble, including the loss of his close friend Dani Jarque. What a legend!
Guardiola, speaking back in 1999: ‘People keep saying Xavi will retire me from professional football, but the truth is Andres Iniesta will surpass us both!’
Luckily for Barça, that has not been the case. In fact, it has been the combination of those 3 legends that has brought our beloved club to the top of world football, winning 13 out of the last 16 competitions entered.
As a result of the amazing achievements described above, Andresito is now more commonly known as DON Andres Iniesta – his meteoric career has made him earn a lot of respect from every corner of the globe.
On a personal note though, he will always be that young boy from Albacete who turned up for training one day, unaware he was going to light the Blaugrana sky with his unique touch of football magic.
I feel fortunate enough to have witnessed his career from such an early stage and hope to do so for many years to come.
DON ANDRES INIESTA: THE LITTLE PALE BOY WHO BECAME A BARÇA LEGEND!!!
PS: I would like to thank totalBarça for the opportunity to share this story. I regularly publish my articles at www.barcablog.com , focusing on the latest opinion and news on Barça’s energy, pride, tradition, skill, passion and, above all, mesmerising football. Barçablog.com now has over 25,000 followers, mostly on Facebook and Twitter.
Thank you for reading and Força Barça!!!
Image Credits: Nike, FCBarcelona.cat