The importance of being Iniesta

“Iniesta is like an erotic dream…when he plays, you just want it to go on for a little longer, you don’t want it to stop,” said a mesmerised Claudio Borghi of Andres Iniesta after Spain’s friendly against Chile before he went in search of a much needed cigarette…probably.

With his team winning 2-0 against the Spaniards, who yet again had indulged in the art of over-complication, it was Iniesta’s arrival on to the pitch that changed the face of the game. Simplifying matters, the Barcelona midfielder restored the fluidity of his side’s play, connected with the key players and injected much-needed pace into the match whilst still affording himself time to pause, think and deliver the perfect ball for his teammates to score.

Singlehandedly guiding La Furia Roja to a win, it was another example of why Iniesta has somewhat become a problem solver for the national team. Lacking in depth and a vertical edge, opponents have now begun to find ways to halt the horizontal Spanish attack that takes one too many touches and appears either too slow or narrow going forward.

In a recent friendly against China, the Spanish squad looked perplexed as they attempted to break down the defensive ‘great wall of China’ erected by their opponents to stop the tricky midfielders from piercing through. Again the side had to depend on Don Andres to come on, as a substitute, to speed up play, offer a somewhat vertical edge and ensure happiness as he picked out a perfect pass for David Silva to score the only goal of the game.

Whether it be his goal that won Spain the World Cup or his threaded vertical pass that allowed Jesus Navas to score and win against Croatia, the World and European Champions are growing more and more dependent on the man who has produced three man of the match performances so far in Euro 2012. In the last group game in particular, against Slaven Bilic’s brave men, Iniesta not only provided seven through-balls, a quarter of his side’s shots on target and created nearly 30 per cent of Spain’s chances going forward, but his dogged approach to the game in addition to his artistry and grace finally saw him deliver the winning assist.

“He sees the holes that don’t look like they are there and is able to stop and take a pause in the most difficult area [of the pitch] when the norm is to accelerate,” highlights Juan Mata who, much like the rest of the squad, is in awe of the Manchego player. His change of place, ability to occupy non-existent pockets of space and his penchant for performing when it matters may well guide Vicente Del Bosque’s men to another final.

The opponents have quickly realised the player’s impact on the game – so much so that they are now happy to surround him at every opportunity, fearing what he might do when given some space. This led to the infamous pictures of the player in both the Italy and Croatia game encircled by opposition players much like Captain Tsubasa, known as Oliver Atom in Spain, who is the Japanese animated character labelled as the ‘heaven sent child of football’.

With those superhuman skills, one has to wonder whether Andres Iniesta is in fact real or simply an illusion.