The 8 Greatest Moments of Andres Iniesta’s Career As Barcelona Icon Announces Camp Nou Exit

Andres Iniesta will be bringing the curtain down on his glorious Barcelona career at the end of the season after 22 years at the club from joining as an academy and 31 major honours that is sure to become 32 at the weekend if Barça beat Deportivo La Coruna in La Liga.

Iniesta has been a first-team player for close to 17 years and has been a veritable star of the team for almost 12.

It is a testament to his longevity that he stayed at the top for so long. But, soon to celebrate his 34th birthday, the 2010 World Cup final scorer is ready to take on a new challenge elsewhere. 

Here’s a look back at Iniesta’s finest career moments…  

1. First Team Debut

Having been invited to train with the Barça first team from as young as 16 – yielding the famous line from Pep Guardiola that while Xavi was good enough to retire him, Iniesta was good enough to retire them all – Iniesta was eventually handed his senior debut in 2002.

Louis van Gaal, then in his second spell at Camp Nou, was manager at the time and gave an 18-year-old Iniesta 90 minutes in a Champions League group game win against Club Brugge. 

He later played against Bayer Leverkusen and Newcastle in the second group stage, before making his La Liga debut in December of 2002 against Real Mallorca.  

2. Maiden European Title

Having already flirted with the idea of leaving Barça to join Real Betis in 2004, Iniesta was not a regular starter in 2004/05 or 2005/06, despite featuring in most games.

The team was still dominated by international stars like Ronaldinho and Deco at that time, coach Frank Rijkaard turned to Iniesta to help change the game when Barça were losing 1-0 at half-time in the 2006 Champions League final against Arsenal.

Only just 22 at the time, he replaced the more defensive minded Edmilson, and when Henrik Larsson appeared later in the game, the scoreline was turned on its head.  

3. THAT Goal Against Chelsea

Chelsea can perhaps feel hard done by that they didn’t progress to the Champions League final for a second successive year in 2009. They were denied several very strong penalty appeals in the crucial second leg of the semi final against Barça that would have comfortably put them through.

Leading 1-0 on aggregate, Chelsea were on course to make it to the final and only refereeing luck kept the Catalans in the tie. But there was nothing lucky about the 93rd minute equaliser that Iniesta scored to break Chelsea hearts and see Barça prevail on away goals.

With one swing of his weaker foot, he found the top corner, sending shockwaves across Europe. Barcelona then passed Manchester United off the pitch in the final to complete an historic treble.  

4. World Cup Winner

Iniesta’s place as one of the best players in the world had been cemented with his place in Spain’s Euro 2008 winning team, breaking the country’s 44-year international silverware drought, and Barcelona’s 2008/09 treble.

That continued throughout the 2009/10 season at club level, before making history when he scored the goal that sealed Spain’s first ever World Cup title.

An infamously physical match between La Roja and the Netherlands in Johannesburg was goal-less for 116 minutes until Iniesta popped up with a cool finish to win the World Cup. France Football recently admitted it is a great shame he didn’t win the Ballon d’Or that year.

5. Champions League Dominance

If Barcelona played Manchester United off the pitch in the 2009 Champions League final, the 2011 final against the same opposition at Wembley was even more one sided. Ineista’s brilliance, in tandem with Xavi and feeding Lionel Messi, was the main reason why.

United were the best team in a hugely competitive Premier League and were the best opposition Europe had to offer as it was their third Champions League final in four seasons, but it wasn’t even close on the night as Barça won 3-1.

Again, Messi took the plaudits at the end of year Ballon d’Or ceremony, but Iniesta was just as much of a star.  

6. A Second Treble

A trebles is rare, and a second treble is rarer still. But Iniesta helped Barcelona accomplish that great feat in the 2014/15 season.

Injury had limited some of his participation in La Liga that season, but Iniesta, who was increasingly wearing the captain’s armband for Barça as Xavi’s career began to wind down, was a regular in the Copa del Rey and played in all but two Champions League games.

He led the team out for both finals, against Athletic Bilbao domestically and Juventus in Europe, while his Champions League triumph was a new joint record he held with colleague Xavi and Messi for win since the competition rebrand in 1992.  

7. Standing Ovation at the Bernabeu

A standing ovation in a Clásico at the Bernabeu is the ultimate in respect and admiration for a Barcelona player, and Iniesta achieved just that when he applauded from the pitch after helping Barça destroy Real in November 2015.

That honour had previously gone to Ronaldinho 10 years earlier, and Diego Maradona.

Iniesta set up one goal for Neymar, scored an unstoppable effort of his own and was generally masterful throughout, before replaced in the closing stages to receive praise he deserved from a set of home supporters who knew they had just witnessed greatness, regardless of his shirt.  

8. Last Copa del Rey

Iniesta collected his 31st and penultimate career Barcelona trophy with victory in the Copa del Rey final over Sevilla earlier this month. By that point it had become clear that he was readying himself to announce his departure and the maestro was tearful as he held the trophy aloft.

The final was something of a walkover for Barça, crushing Sevilla 5-0 in the Wanda Metropolitano stadium in Madrid.

Iniesta himself scored the fourth goal of the game early in the second half and replaced for the final few minutes by Denis Suarez to receive a deserved standing ovation from Sevilla supporters as well as his own.