Andres Iniesta: The story of how Barcelona signed one of the greats

Andres Iniesta Barcelona
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A timely trip to a famous amusement park proved the catalyst for one of the greatest signings in Barca history, scout Joan Martinez Vilaseca recalled

Had it not been for a trip to a water park, Andres Iniesta may never have signed for Barcelona.

More than 20 years on from that trip to PortAventura World, history has been written, with the midfielder having placed himself in the annals of the game as one of the all-time greats in his position and one of the lucky few to net a winning goal in a World Cup final.

And the scout who discovered the teenage Iniesta and brought him to Barcelona has revealed he never had any doubt that he would make the grade and wow the Camp Nou faithful. 

The 34-year-old is leaving Barcelona this summer after a career spanning more than 20 years at the Catalan club and spawning 32 trophies in that time and he said goodbye in an emotional event at Camp Nou on Friday night.

Iniesta has been with Barca since 1996, when as a 12-year-old boy he was spotted by scout Joan Martinez Vilaseca and convinced to swap first club Albacete for the Blaugrana.

Now, with Iniesta set to play his final match with the club against Real Sociedad in La Liga on Sunday, Vilaseca has paid tribute to one of his greatest discoveries. 

"We discovered him during the Brunete tournament, Albert Benaiges was our youth team coach and he alerted us about Iniesta, we began to work and we came to see him," the scout, who worked as the right-hand man to the legendary, late Barca talent-spotter Oriol Tort, explained to Goal .

"He had amazing technical skills, he was very fast making decisions and had incredible vision; he had everything we look for in young midfielders.

"It wasn't easy to bring him to Barcelona but as fate would have it, Barca met Albacete in the youth Copa del Rey and we went to meet his family again. His father told us he was still very young and I understood, but I told him that being such a good player soon or later new offers would arrive and I told him to remember that we would always be interested in him."

Ultimately Vilaseca and Barcelona were able to take advantage of an Iniesta family outing to one of Spain's most popular amusement parks and seal the deal.

"We were the first club to show interest in him and we invited Andres and his family to see La Masia if they ever came to Barcelona," the scout recalls.

"After a few weeks his father called me and told us they were on a trip to Port Aventura theme park so we invited them to see La Masia.

"At that time, young Real Madrid starlets were living in rented flats, not in a residence; in the past, we were able to beat Real Madrid to young [Ivan] de la Pena for the same reason.

"We had lunch at La Masia and they loved it, we were the only Academy with a residence; Iniesta's father called us again a few days after that meeting and they told us they had accepted our offer."

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Andres Iniesta GFX

After 18 years, almost 700 games at senior level, eight Liga titles and four Champions Leagues, the journey that began with a trip to PortAventura is coming to an end for Iniesta this weekend. 

Vilaseca admits it will be hard to watch him go, but is pleased to see the star sign off at the height of his powers. 

"Iniesta is a very complete player, he can be fantastic in the middle or as a winger, a very complex role today, and that is something that only a few players in the world can do at this level," he explained.

"He hasn't said his last words in Spain yet. It is going to be sad, but he will leave at his very best."