Iniesta has been Barcelona's most important player, says club chief Bartomeu

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The Blaugrana president has paid tribute to the midfielder, who is expected to announce he will leave the club at the end of the season

Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu has hailed Andres Iniesta as the club's “most important player” since 2004 as the midfielder nears the end of his spell at Camp Nou.

Iniesta, 33, is expected to announce on Friday he will leave Barca at the end of the season after 16 trophy-laden campaigns.

Bartomeu was full of praise for Iniesta, who has won eight La Liga titles and four Champions League crowns with Barca.

But he was unwilling to be drawn on confirming Iniesta's future, with the midfielder reportedly set for a move to China.

"From 2004 until now, [Iniesta] has been the most important player we have had because he has been in every coach's project since [Frank] Rijkaard," Bartomeu told El Larguero.

"[His future] must be said by Iniesta. He must explain it.

“I cannot advance anything about it. We have to respect him after the career he has had here.

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"Every parent would like to have a son like Andres."

Iniesta is set to win his ninth La Liga crown for Barca, who only need a draw at Deportivo La Coruna on Sunday.

The Spain international was on the scoresheet as Barca downed Sevilla 5-0 in the Copa del Rey final on 21 April - in what is expected to be his last final with the Blaugrana.