First of all, I must eat some humble pie. For the second major tournament in a row, I compiled a list of reasons as to why Spain wouldn’t win gold, as I predicted disappointment in their defence of their European Championship crown.
Needless to say, I was made to look the fool as Spain romped home in emphatic style, with a 4-0 demolition of Italy cementing their position as one of the greatest international sides to have ever graced football. So a big congratulations to them.
But this comes down to the continued brilliance of one man. A certain Mr. Andres Iniesta.
Iniesta has continued to exceed all expectations that come of him these days, having long shaken off a tag of being the most underrated footballer in the world.
Now he is the main man, a player any midfielder should aspire to be, having perfected practically every part of his game to become the most dangerous and intelligent footballer on the planet.
And he has had a fantastic summer, as a professional and a person, as he added to European Championship glory by marrying Anna Ortiz on July 8th.
I feared a certain amount of burnout might hinder Iniesta’s campaign, alongside that of his partner in crime, Xavi.
The two have become indispensable members of Barcelona’s first team, utilised whenever available and I feared the 47 appearances Iniesta made over the 2011/12 season for Barca could count against his fitness going into Euro 2012.
However it appears that Barca suffered more from overusing Iniesta, as El Ilusionista only played 27 league games for La Blaugrana, as they surrendered their Liga title to Real Madrid for the first time in four years.
Instead of allowing that disappointment to hinder his international campaign, Iniesta saw it fuel him to see that the campaign didn’t end in frustration.
He picked up three man of the match awards on Spain’s road to glory, including his mercurial performance in the final against Italy.
Even while his nation was being branded ‘boring’ by fans across Europe, who had tired of Spain’s tika-taka style of football, Iniesta still wowed those venting their negativity.
He twisted, turned, passed, moved constantly, dropping deep to receive the ball, instantly popping it off, before appearing in an offensive position to cause some danger to the opposition defence.
He dribbled with the ball stuck to his feet, danced and weaved between defenders and passed the ball with unerring accuracy. It was pure art, a footballing ballet, a perfect performance over a three week period that left onlookers and participants in complete awe.
Those that look purely at the stats will see only one assist and question why he was named Man of the Tournament, but there was a poetic perfection to his game, displaying hard work, tenacity and incisive attacking football.
His passing accuracy was only bettered by Xavi, whilst he was at the heartbeat of every attacking move Spain put together, only robbed of assists by not playing the final ball.
UEFA technical director Andy Roxburgh merely said, “Picking Iniesta as player of Euro 2012 sends a message about creativity, incisive football and humility.” Quite so.
This has ensured that Iniesta has won every award available on a collective manner, with important contributions in important games making him one of the most feared players in world football.
Three years ago, Wayne Rooney described Iniesta as the best player in the world following his performance in the 2009 Champions League final as Barca defeated Manchester United, after Iniesta had scored the all important goal against Chelsea to send them there.
2010 saw El Cerebro score the only goal in the World Cup final, as Spain lifted their maiden World Cup trophy, before another mercurial performance against Manchester United saw Barca recapture the Champions League.
Now just one award awaits his already bulging trophy cabinet. The FIFA Ballon D’or. Team-mate Lionel Messi has scooped the personal accolades for the past three years, but the calls are out now for a new king to be crowned.
Often referred to as El Caballero Palido (The Pale Knight), he is the man to ride into the temple and take the crown for his own.
Consistent performances for years for both club and country make him the most formidable opponent for any player now and another year of producing the goods for both Barcelona and Spain make him surely the number one player for 2012.
Pep Guardiola once told Xavi; “You will be the end of me. But Iniesta will be the end of us all.”
Now Lionel Messi will be the man staring across the dressing room, knowing his is the latest and final crown that Andres Iniesta usurps as the best player in the world for this year.
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Tags: Andres Iniesta, Ballon D'or, Barcelona, Euro 2012, La Liga, Lionel Messi, Spain