With the departure of icons like Carles Puyol and Xavi Hernández, Barcelona holds on to Andrés Iniesta, the last true old-school legend who still plays at a high level for the club he loves. Because of his talents and successful career, the current Barça captain has always been targeted by big European teams who want his services. The star midfielder never wanted to leave Catalunia, and he still won't.
Iniesta gave an interview to El País in which he discussed why he never wanted to play at a competitive place like the Premier League, for instance, and what it means for him to stay at Barça his whole career, and to be a captain now. There are some great quotes, take a look:
What was going through your mind when you lifted the European Supercup?
I was happy because I wanted that day to end that way. I was very excited to lift it and even more so because of how the game went, with how much we suffered in the end.
Do you need excitement?
Yes, but not just in football. We’re all moved by things that excite us and by positive thoughts to improve ourselves and surpass difficult moments. And that’s what we do as footballers too, even though for us everything happens very fast, both the good and the bad. That’s why you need to be as balanced as possible to keep moving ahead.
You have almost everything: a family, success, acknowledgement, money… What is there left to dream of?
Lots of things. You don’t feel "full" just because you have everything, at times you feel completely empty and you don’t know why. The material aspects or the things that you achieve are not everything, they don’t give you happiness. As footballers we are not excluded from anything and we can go through every kind of negative situation. But I feel privileged because every day I do what I love, I’m surrounded by people that I love and I’ve lived unique moments that were important for me and many others.
You also have the armband…
That’s something special. It excites me, but it’s a responsibility.
One of the captain’s jobs is to argue with the referee. Will you have to practice your ‘bad guy’ face?
It’s not about yelling more or less. Each of us has his way of explaining himself and making himself clear. But you have to find the way between arguing and saying things right. You achieve more by saying things right and with education.
Does it make you uncomfortable to have to mediate an eventual dressing room issue like Xavi did last year with Messi and Luis Enrique?
Being the captain means you take on these things and you have to be aware of everything. But you have to do it naturally, with logic and common sense. Even though we have a very sane and good dressing room.
Do you think that you’re a veteran in the dressing room?
I feel like a veteran because of my age and the number of years that I’ve been playing for Barcelona. I feel very young in terms of the hunger for victories, of wanting to do things well, and enjoying things. I’m not at the point in which I would feel like retiring.
Do the youngsters in the squad ask for your advice like you did when you got to the first team?
Everything has changed, just like life itself. I’m not saying it’s better or worse, but it’s not the same thing as when I was promoted. The veterans are not looked at the same way. It’s not that they’re disrespectful, it’s just that they’ve experienced these last 10-12 years with role models in the first team that were homegrown. And that makes things look more normal. But they’re not.
Now you have more rivals for your spot than ever. Do you see it that way?
It’s always been this way because the club’s objective is that we’re at our best in order to win titles. It’s about constantly improving. I’m obviously competitive. But you’re not more competitive if you yell more or get mad. Here we all want to be the best. That’s a requirement for getting to the first team and for staying here.
Is that idea necessary to keep the hunger for victories alive?
You never lose that hunger. If you lose the titles, it’s not because you didn’t really want them, it’s because you didn’t do things right or didn’t perform as required or because at a certain point the ball didn’t go in.
With Luis Enrique you’ve never played as a winger, just as a midfielder...
I always respect the coach’s decisions because he does what’s best for the team. What happens is that everyone knows that my natural position is the attacking midfielder spot. But in certain moments I could play as a false winger and perform well there. I never felt bad in that position. But you need the ball close to you to be better. And that’s the difference: in midfield the ball always go through your position and as a winger you have to wait for it. It’s not easy to play there because I can’t express myself as I am.
How can the FIFA ban affect the team?
It’s a negative thing. It’s not pleasant and it’s not something that favors us. But we have to be at the required level because when you’re at the top the only way to go is down.
Will La Liga be a two horse race again?
Valencia and Sevilla are great teams. And Atlético has proven that they can fight the two theoretical horses once again. But it will all depend on how we do. For us it should be the same when we play against the last placed team and when we play against the second placed one. That’s the way to win. It’s clear that on paper we’re superior to many teams, but if you don’t play well you won’t win. That’s the demand when you’re competing against yourself. And Luis Enrique is very clear on that. We’re competing against the rest of the teams, but against ourselves too.
What do you think of Madrid?
I haven’t seen much of their preseason. But regardless of their coach or players, Madrid will always fight for every title. I don’t know what Benítez will bring specifically, but he’s a great coach.
Doesn’t the idea of playing in the Premier League appeal to you?
I’ve never had that need. I’m very happy here and I have three more years on my contract that I’ll hopefully fulfill. For me, there’s no better place than Barça. And when you feel that way, you don’t see anything else.
Source: El País via Grup14