How will Barcelona manage the midfield if Iniesta decides to leave?
As the warm and calm waves of the Mediterranean Sea leave their indelible mark upon the shore of the city, another ruthless storm rises in the interior. Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia and one of the most prolific cities in Europe, is also the home to El Ilusionista, who has rightly earned the bragging rights as one of the finest players of all time. Starting his professional career for FC Barcelona at a tender age of 12, Andres Iniesta’s rise to fame projected him to unachievable heights in world football.
On the brink of reaching 450 league appearances, Iniesta is certainly more than a sportsperson for the city of Barcelona. A mascot of the Barcelona ideology, Catalonia’s poster-boy has a deal with his boyhood club which would keep him at the Camp Nou ‘for life’. Barcelona fans would be keen to witness Iniesta as the flag-bearer in the 2022 calendar year when the Camp Nou is set to be completely renovated.
However, recent developments and talks in the transfer market have forced Cules to worry about the midfielder’s future as a Blaugrana. After Barcelona’s resounding 3-0 victory over Chelsea in the UEFA Champions League, Iniesta spoke regarding his future in Spain. The midfielder accepted that he has a lot of lucrative big-money offers from China and he would weigh his options before 30 April to decide if he would continue as a Barcelona player.
“I need to decide before April 30th whether to stay at Barcelona or go to China. I have to weigh up which is best for me and for the club.” – Andres Iniesta
Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde added weight to the speculation regarding Iniesta’s future at the Nou Camp in his match conference after the Chelsea game. It is certain that the doubts regarding Iniesta’s future gained momentum just before the second leg of Barcelona’s Quarterfinal tie with the London club.
“I don’t know, it’s a very personal decision, he (Iniesta) has to decide. He has his reasons and will decide what’s best for him. I’m not thinking of a Barcelona without Andres Iniesta because right now we have a Barcelona with Andres .” – Ernesto Valverde
To the distress of Barcelona fans, Don’s future at the club isn’t the only thing worrying them, it is the future of the club after Iniesta. While the club is yet to successfully replace the irreplaceable Xavi Hernandez, Iniesta’s departure could exploit another hole.
Moving from a more physical and less tactical league, Philippe Coutinho offers a more attacking option down the left flank and isn’t suited to double up as an architect in the midfield. Carles Alena from La Masia is another suitor for the Iniesta throne but his development could be blocked by the big names in the first team.
The midfielder is yet to gel within the squad and a lack of chemistry between Alena and the forward line restrict the youngster’s play time. The Spaniard isn’t well tested under pressure and in European football.
Paulinho’s transfer from China was highly controversial and the box-to-box Brazilian doesn’t have the same ability of Iniesta. The highly rated Denis Suarez is a victim of overcrowding in the Barcelona squad. Denis has pledged his allegiance and loyalty to Barcelona but it is upon Ernesto Valverde to extract the best out of the midfielder’s talents.
Can Barcelona replace the magical Spaniard in time or will it go down as another hole in the squad, like the one which was created when Iniesta’s best friend and midfield partner Xavier Hernandez retired from European Football?