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Getting To Know: Andrés Iniesta

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Full name: Andrés Iniesta Luján 
Squad No: 8
Position: Midfielder
Date of birth: 11 May 1984
Place of birth: Fuentealbilla, Spain
Height: 1.70 m (5 ft 7 in)
Weight: 65 kg (143 lbs)

Born in Fuentealbilla, a small town in the Albacete province, Andrés Iniesta was still just a shy, little boy when he already attracted interests of many of Spain's top clubs, including Barcelona. His final games with the Albacete Balompie team came in a junior tournament in 1996. After the competition Enrique Orizaola, FC Barcelona youth coach and a family friend, convinced Andres' parents it would be best for him to join La Masia. So in September 1996 he left his parents for the distant Catalan capital.

It was a difficult transition for the him as he was uncomfortable with life without his family but with help from his new teammates he was able to get used to the new surroundings. He started as a defensive midfielder and due to his incredible football skills he progressed quickly through Barca's youth ranks, also serving as a team captain in several junior teams. One of his biggest idols was none other than one of the club legends Pep Guardiola. When they met, at a trophy ceremony, Guardiola gave the youngster a photo dedicated to "the best player I've ever seen" and was later quoted saying to Xavi: "You will retire me, but Iniesta will retire us both." Iniesta has surely lived up to the high praise, but early in his career he was often overlooked because of his willingness to play multiple positions and quiet approach.

His youth career was over in the 2000-01 season when he joined Barcelona B, but there he didn't become a regular immediately. The next season, however, he played in almost every game. First team coach Luis van Gall called him up for the 29 October 2002 Champions League group game against Club Brugge; Iniesta's first appearance for the first team. He spent the 2002-03 season playing games for both the B team and the first team, but the following season he became an official member of the FC Barcelona first team.

Though Iniesta did need one season to become a starter, he really blossomed when Frank Rijkaard took over management of the team. Don Andrés became a key member of the team and has been one of the most used players in every season. It took him a long time to receive the shirt number he always wore, number 8. He started with the number 34 and then he wore 24 on his back, but on 19 June 2007, after Ludovic Guily left, he was given the number 8.

During the 2008-09 Iniesta was named as one of the vice-captains. After he was lucky enough to escape serious injuries throughout his career, they finally caught up to him in Barcelona's most successful season as well as the year after that and he was forced to the sidelines for prolonged periods of time, but he has been able to fully recover. Andrés Iniesta has been a terrific member of the club and he has amassed 343 appearances and 31 goals for the first team. For the B team he played in 54 games and scored five times.

Iniesta started his international career very early as he was featured in every Spanish underage team, winning several trophies along the way to the senior team. To the surprise of many he had to wait until 27 May 2006 to earn his first cap. It came as a substitute against Russia in a friendly game but since then he has been a regular member of the team, appearing in 54 games and scoring nine goals. His biggest international goal was also the biggest one in Spain's history as he scored the World Cup winning goal against the Netherlands

Profile
Andrés Iniesta is armed with terrific balance and impeccable ball control, both reason he moved from the defensive midfielder position to an attacking oriented midfielder; he can also play as a winger. He is an incredibly hard worker and he has often been described as a complete midfielder; he can defend, pass and score. Like many Barcelona teammates he lacks the height and strength to play a physical game, but he possesses the pace to outrun most of the opposing players.

Honors
FC Barcelona
  • La Liga (4): 2004-05, 2005-06, 2008-09, 2009-10

  • Copa del Rey (1): 2008-09

  • Supercopa de España (4): 2005, 2006, 2009, 2010

  • UEFA Champions League (2): 2005-06, 2008-09

  • UEFA Super Cup (1): 2009

  • FIFA Club World Cup (1): 2009

Spain

  • UEFA European Under-16 Football Championship (1): 2001

  • UEFA European Under-19 Football Championship (1): 2002

  • UEFA European Championship (1): 2008

  • FIFA World Cup (1): 2010

Individual

  • Euro 2008 Team of the Tournament

  • Don Balón Award (1): 2009

  • La Liga's Best Attacking Midfielder (1): 2009

  • FIFPro World XI (2): 2009, 2010

  • UEFA Team of the Year (2): 2009, 2010

  • 2010 FIFA World Cup All-Star Team

  • Prince of Asturias Awards (1): 2010

In November 2009 Iniesta extended his Barcelona contract until 30 June 2015, prolonging his previous contract by one year and raising the buy-out clause from €150 million to €200 million.

Next up: One of Barcelona's most promising youngsters Bojan Krkić.

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