Barcelona & Spain will miss inspiration Iniesta when he's gone

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The 33-year-old is set to walk away from La Roja after the World Cup and could leave his club this summer too. He will be a hard act to follow...

Andres Iniesta is still sublime. The Barcelona midfielder may have been written off as old and slow by some, but that could not be further from the truth. He remains as special as ever.

Even back in 2015, as he helped Barca win a treble which was capped by a Man of the Match performance in the Champions League final against Juventus in Berlin, it was said that he was "back".

Yet the player himself was surprised. "Back," he replied to a reporter. "I have never been away!" And he has not been away since, either. Iniesta was Spain's standout player at Euro 2016 and has remained at a consistent level for Barca since.

Last year, he signed a new "lifetime" contract with the Catalan club, the first ever player to pen such an agreement with the Blaugrana, yet he is now considering his future amid interest from China for next season.

"I have thought about it a lot, but I haven't decided," he said earlier this week. "I have spoken about it with [Leo] Messi and my team-mates. If I stay, it will be because I am at 200 per cent. And if I go, it will be because I feel I am not capable of that."

He certainly looks capable at the moment, however. It was Iniesta who set up Messi for the vital equaliser at Chelsea in the first leg of his side's Champions League last-16 tie recently and despite the arrival of his long-term replacement Philippe Coutinho at Barca in January, he continues to start in all the important games.

Coach Ernesto Valverde has said he wants the midfielder to continue and those wishes were echoed recently by Blaugrana fans as they chanted "Iniesta, we love you" and "Iniesta, stay!" in the 2-0 win over Athletic Club last weekend.

While he may yet be convinced to stick around at Camp Nou a little longer, Iniesta does now look likely to call it a day with Spain after the World Cup in Russia this summer. 

Germany Spain result

"Naturally, given the moment, it could possibly be my last appearance with the national team," Iniesta said this week. "Let's hope my farewell with Spain is what we are all dreaming of – the final of the World Cup."

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Spain have only reached one World Cup final, in 2010, and Iniesta won it with his goal in extra time against the Netherlands. And on Friday, he showed he still has all that quality as he set up Rodrigo for a fine goal to give La Roja the lead in a 1-1 draw in Germany.

He later went off for a break at half-time and he was missed in the second half. Should he walk away in the summer, he will be missed even more. But before that, he has two big goals: winning the treble with Barca and another World Cup with Spain.

It would be the perfect way to go.

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