Andrés Iniesta Luján, world renowned as the captain for Barcelona, is widely considered to be one of the best players of his generation and one of the greatest midfielders of all time. Here are some known and unknown facts about the Spanish footballer:
He was born Andres Iniesta Lujan on May 11, 1984, in Fuentealbilla, Spain, to Jose Antonio Iniesta, a business man and Maria Lujan Iniesta. He has a sister Maria Lujan.
He started his football with the local club Albacete Balompie, at the age of 10 and gained attraction from football clubs around Spain with his performance at a seven-a-side tournament when he was 12 years.
He was signed up by Barcelona FC in their youth team in 1996, much against his wishes. In 1999, he won the Nike Premier Cup scoring last minute goal in the finals while captaining the club’s under-15 team and was named player of the tournament.
From the 2004-05, season onwards he became a regular feature as a center midfielder. He led Barcelona to the Joan Gamper Trophy in 2006 and with growing credential as one of the most consistent performer he was placed fourth in the 2007FIFA voting of best players.
Following his family tradition he invested his time and money into wine production. His business venture named the Bodega Iniesta, producing wine from special fruits frown in his 180 hectares of vineyards.
On November 27, 2009, his contract was extended until June 30, 2015, for around € 200 million with a buyout clause. He had an outstanding Champions Trophy outing that year helping Barcelona to the title that year.
He is a versatile player with excellent ball control supported with his agility and skill on the ball is described as ‘the complete footballer.’ Though he is attacking midfielder he has been used as false winger, central midfielder, deep midfielder and some time as withdrawn striker.
At the start of 2009-10, season he was troubled by recurring thigh injury and the season came to premature end in April when his injury was diagnosed with a total rupture of the right femoral biceps muscle.
He is known by many nicknames but Don Andres is the favorite of Spanish Press. Some call him El Ilusionista, for his all position play and others call him El Cerebro, the brain for his footballing intelligence. He is also called El Anti-Galactico and the Pale Knight.
He is into sponsorship deal with sports equipment supplier Nike and also features in EA Sports FIFA video game series.
Just before the 2010 World Cup, Iniesta stopped feeling like a footballer and had to seek professional help. He was not under depression nor illness, but an unease which terrified him. The death of his friend Jarque, captain of Espanyolalso had greatly affected him.
He was part of Spanish Under-16 team which won the ‘UEFA European Under-16 Championship and went on to represent the Under-17 in 2001.
In 2011, he invested € 420,000 in his boyhood club, Albacete and in the process became its major shareholder.
In the 2002 UEFA European Under-19 Championship, he scored the opening goal of the tournament for Spain against Czech Republic. Spain went on to win the title and qualified for the youth championship. He was the top scorer for Spain at the 2003 FIFA World Youth Championship where they finished runner-up.
Aged 22, he was included in the 2006 FIFA World Cup Spanish squad much to the surprise of many but earned his first cap on May 27 in a friendly against Russia.
An avid user of Instagram, he found to his surprise his account was suspended with Instagram claiming that he had violated the company’s term of service with those family, food and architecture photos.
He scored his first international goal for Spain on February 07, 2007, in a friendly against England and played a major part along with David Villa and Xavi, in Spain qualifying for the 2008 Euro.
Despite suffering from stomach ailment, he played a pivotal role for Spain winning the 2008 Euro Championship. He was named in the Team of the Tournament.
In the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Iniesta’s 116th minute goal sealed the fate of Netherland as Spain went on to win its first World Cup with a 1-0 score line. He won the man of the match in the finals.
Iniesta was part of Spanish World Cup winning team which was felicitated and awarded with Prince of Asturias Award for Sports in July 2010. They were also awarded Royal Order of Sports Merit, in October 2011.
He married Anna Oritz on July 08, 2012 and they have two daughters, Valeria and Siena and a son Andrea.
As part of golden era of Spain, he was at his best when he was awarded the man of the match in three different matches including the finals of 2012 Euro when Spain defeated Italy 4-0. He was named as Euro Player of the Tournaments.
Iniesta won the Silver Ball, as second best player in the 2013 FIFA Confederation Cup and also featured in the Team of the Tournament.
At the start of 2014-15, season he became the captain and capped it with 2015 UEFA Champions Trophy title and was named man of the match in the final.
His performance in the 2015-16, season against Real Madrid on November 21, received applause even from rival fans at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium, the third Barcelona player after Maradona and Ronaldinho with the honors. He was the man of the match in 4-0 win in the finals.
He was ranked ninth in March 2015, of having highest social media rank in the world among sportsperson, with 24 million Facebook fans.
In 2015, he was recipient of ‘Queen Sofia Award for his exemplary sporting behavior as part of National Sports Award. He received the award at a ceremony in Madrid on January 2017.
Since the beginning of October 29, 2002, he has been loyal to Barcelona for the last 16 season scoring 56 goals in 647 appearances apart from turning out for their ‘B’ team in three seasons. He has also recorded 13 goals in 123 matches for Spanish national team.
Iniesta, who has come close to winning the Ballon d’Or on three occasions, has made it to FIFA’s FIFPro World XI, for the ninth year running when he was named in the 2017 team.
On Friday the October 06, 2017, Iniesta signed lifetime contract with his club Barcelona, which will keep the midfielder in Blaugrana for the remainder of his career.