Andres Iniesta does not just play in finals, he wins them. Five years ago in South Africa, he proved to be the match-winner with his extra-time goal against Netherlands. The diminutive playmaker also put in a man-of-the-Imatch performance as Spain defended their European title. He is a big-game player, and Saturday was no different.
He showed that mentality from the very beginning when he picked out Ivan Rakitic for Barcelona's first goal after just four minutes.
Against a tireless Juventus side, Iniesta, along with Sergio Busquets and Ivan Rakitic, had full control in the middle of the park – a herculean task considering the Italians had a midfield packed with the mercurial talents of Paul Pogba, Andrea Pirlo, Arturo Vidal and Claudio Marchisio. With the captain’s armband on, he ran the show for 80 minutes.
A trophy magnet, it’s no surprise then that Barcelona’s victory in Berlin saw Iniesta claim his fourth Champions League winners’ medal, the 25th major trophy of his career. To put that into perspective, Chelsea in their long history have 28 major trophies, Tottenham have 24 and Manchester City 17. So what next for the man who has won all there is to win?
Ever the humble man, Iniesta chose not to revel in his own personal accomplishment, instead heaping praise on his midfield partner Xavi Hernandez. The two have been at the heart of Barca during their most successful period. With Xavi moving on, he is set to inherit the armband and can relish fully captaining the club he has been a part of for 18 years.
At the start of the season, some started to doubt the legend. Among the excitement of the Messi-Neymar partnership, Iniesta had an imperceptible opening few months. The Spaniard has contributed only one League goal and assist this season, with his one and only assist not coming until May. Indeed, there have been questions as to whether the 31-year-old has started to show his age.
Nonetheless, Iniesta has never been a statistician’s dream. Never the type of player to rack up goals or assists, his quality speaks for itself. There is little need to eulogise about the talents of the Ilusionista. His abilities with a ball at his feet are matched only by his intelligence and ingenuity on the pitch. And those talents shone through when Barca needed them most.
While Iniesta was named man of the match, this was a match which many La Blaugrana players can recall as one of their better performances. Rakitic put restless Barca hearts at ease as he beat Buffon with a mere four minutes on the clock. The Croat nearly crowned the performance with a stunning lob assist, were it not for Gerard Pique blazing the ball over the bar. While ineffective going forward, Pique did what was required of him in defence, putting in a commanding display and keeping the likes of Carlos Tevez and Alvaro Morata at bay for much of the encounter.
But in the star-studded squad at Luis Enrique’s disposal, Iniesta shined as bright as the gold medal around his neck.