Andrés Iniesta is leaving. It’s not a rumor anymore, but fact. The FC Barcelona legend will leave behind a glorious career in his home country to settle down in the Chinese Super League. He will leave massive shoes to fill, and doubly so given that his frequent partner in crime, Xavi, had left Barça a few years earlier.
The Xavi-Iniesta connection is legendary, and it set the tone of what FC Barcelona was about for many years. Barcelona has had many stars over the duo’s reign, but ultimately the team was founded on two small, but wildly technical midfielders with amazing control and passing skills.
With Xavi leaving, the transition had started, but now with Iniesta leaving, it’s confirmed. Barcelona have not exactly replaced Xavi, and the possible purchase of Arthur Melo this summer is arguably intended to do just that.
But the board was proactive in finding Iniesta’s replacement: Philippe Coutinho. The Brazilian joined from Liverpool this past transfer window, potentially sacrificing a UEFA Champions League final in the process. Regardless, he’s already won the Copa del Rey and seems dead set to win La Liga, and his contributions have been pretty good, although of course, many would argue Barça would have won both without him anyway.
In any case, Barcelona could become a team founded, primarily, on Sergio Busquets, as the team’s pivot. His passing skills are very much in the mould of Xavi and Iniesta, although he plays a role much further back than the two.
It’s probable that Barça will always be a possession-based team (at least for the foreseeable future) but without Xavi, and now without Iniesta, it just won’t be the same. The magic the two achieved cannot be replicated, but hopefully, we will still see magic of another variety with Coutinho, and maybe, Arthur, in the side.