Andres Iniesta Barcelona

Iniesta the perfect poster boy for a new generation of talents at Barca

Andres Iniesta's time at Barcelona is about to end. The news that all of the club's fans did not want to hear became reality in late April as the player confirmed his departure in a tearful press conference.

The start of a long and painful goodbye had come in the final of the Copa del Rey, when the midfielder signed off with a goal and a vintage display, before leaving the pitch to an ovation from fans of both Barca and Sevilla.

On the way off, he had embraced several of his team-mates and he then sat on the bench for a few minutes, emotion etched on his face as tears flowed down his cheeks. And shortly afterwards, he returned to lift the trophy following a comprehensive 5-0 win.

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After the game, he refused to confirm his departure, but said he would speak soon, and with the whole squad given most of the week off, the following Friday was the time to announce his decision to the world.

Flanked by family, friends, the Barca board and most of his team-mates (Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi, the latter due to a passport issue, were notable absentees), he revealed his reasons for walking away this summer.

"I don't want to fool myself or fool anybody," he said. "I'm 34 years old (actually he was still 33 at the time) and I know that everything would be more difficult. It's a rule of life. Other challenges come and I will try to be as happy as I have been here."

Clearly, it was a difficult decision. "It is a really hard day for me," he said of his imminent exit and move (probably to play in China or Japan, although it is still unconfirmed). "Because I have been here my whole life. Saying goodbye to what has been my home and my life is really complicated. But I understand that what comes next is even more complicated and difficult.

"I could never forgive myself for making an uncomfortable situation at a club that has given me everything. That would not be fair on me and it would not be fair on the club."

Iniesta trophies graphic

Iniesta had signed a "lifetime" contract at Barca in October, but he had doubts back then and has chosen to leave on a high, still performing at the top level and with a domestic double set to be sealed this weekend as the Catalans close in on La Liga.

The player broke down several times as he annpunced his decision to leave and especially as he thanked his parents and his sister, also present, remembering how he had arrived a shy kid 22 years ago, and his wife and "three treasures", who were also in the room to watch his farewell press conference.

There was also a message for the club. "Succeeding here was ingrained in my head," he said. "It was a bit tough at first but it didn't matter. The club should be aware of the value of the youth system. They are working well."

Xavi Andres Iniesta BarcelonaGetty Images

"Andres eats at a different table," Guardiola once said early on in his tenure as Barca boss. "He's an example. I always says he's an example for the youth players. They should look at him: he doesn't wear ear rings, he doesn't dye his hair.

"He plays 20 minutes and he doesn't complain. Wherever you play him, he doesn't complain. And he always plays well, and he always trains well. And when he is injured, he is in a bad mood because he wants to come back and help the team. For Barca to have a player like him is priceless."

It has been and as Andres prepares to bow out on Sunday, nothing will be quite the same again. But Guardiola is right: just as Pep himself was back in the day, Iniesta is the perfect poster boy for a new generation of talents at La Masia. He can only hope the club gives them a chance.