Andrés Iniesta is expected to make up his mind over his Barcelona future after Saturday’s Copa del Rey final, and it could be bad news for Cules
If he hadn’t made up his mind already, that terrible night in Rome sealed the deal.
Andrés Iniesta is one of those rare examples of ‘one-club men’ who might unexpectedly shift gears next summer. In fact, rumor has it that he has already taken steps in that direction. After 19 years belonging to Barça’s Masía youth system, making it into the first team, winning La Liga titles and Champions Leagues, scoring Spain’s single goal in the World Cup final and becoming an icon for Barcelonistas all around the world, 2018 could be the year where we finally see the Fuentealbilla-born midfielder wearing a different shirt.
As we said earlier, Rome could have provided the tipping point.
Qué personajes!!! Pero qué grandes!!! Fenómenos!!! ???? pic.twitter.com/drVoTdo7WP
— Andrés Iniesta (@andresiniesta8) April 16, 2018
Iniesta has struggled over the past year to find common ground with Josep María Bartomeu after the president publicly (and falsely) announced on September that the player had extended his contract into a lifelong commitment that would only depend on Iniesta’s desire to continue or not every summer. Andrés shot that claim down quickly and was visibly annoyed by such a move by the board. Therefore, his contract remained untouched throughout the season; it expires in June 2018.
His permanence with Barca was one of the main concerns in the fanbase, who idolize the quiet, modest master of Barça’s midfield. Always a class act, always humble and committed to the club, supporters have watched Iniesta grow and develop into one of the finest Spanish players over the last twenty years.
Iniesta’s impact both in Barça and in Spain’s squad can only be compared to that of Xavi Hernández; in fact, back in 2008, managing legend Luis Aragones used both of them as the keystones to build one of the greatest national sides ever witnessed. The win in the Euro 2008 was one of the boldest statements in sports history: it wasn’t only about conquering the tournament, but also doing it in style.
— Andrés Iniesta (@andresiniesta8) April 15, 2018
With Iniesta, Barça have enjoyed their own ‘fiesta’ for many seasons, taking advantage of his mad technical skills, impressive vision and accurate passing to dominate the midfield. But, in one of football’s biggest injustices, the player has gone through a huge number of muscle injuries that have limited his appearances and the physical endurance required to compete at top level.
In the catastrophic knock-out vs AC Roma, Iniesta was subbed only a few minutes before Kostas Manolas scored the harrowing third goal. Andres’ face in the bench, absolutely devastated, was one of the most pitiable and sad moments of the season.
Every summer, FC Barcelona sought in the market ‘the new Iniesta’ without ever finding something quite so special. Ivan Rakitic brought in some control and possession, but he’s no Andrés; André Gomes was bound to bring in new stuff to the table, but he’s no Andrés; and now, many hopes are placed upon Philippe Coutinho’s lightning speed and quality… but, again, he’s not Andrés.
He might be someday, though.
What is next for the Albacete-born midfielder? Quite a change of pace, actually: rumors have swirled for many months talking about interest from the Chinese League. In fact, the figures coming out of these whispers are mind-blowing: should Iniesta choose a move to Tianjin Quanjian, he could be potentially paid a salary close to $43 million per season with a three-year contract.
Additionally, he has been offered a succulent deal in Chinese territory in order to export and sell Spanish wine coming from Bodegas Iniesta, the brand he owns and created. The deal is simply too good to refuse.
The bad news for Barça is that Iniesta’s departure and replacement, as it happened with Xavi a few seasons ago, is only the appetizer for the biggest problem the Culé side will face in the next few years and possibly in this whole century: what will Day 1 after Messi (a.M.) actually look like.