Born on May 11, 1984, in Fuentealbilla, Spain, Andrés Iniesta joined FC Barcelona's youth soccer academy at age 12. The quiet midfielder gradually assumed a starring role on the club, leading Barcelona to an incredible six titles in 2009. Iniesta also scored the winning goal in the 2010 FIFA World Cup and was a primary force behind Spain's victories in the 2008 and 2012 European Championships.
Childhood and Early Career
Andrés Iniesta Luján was born on May 11, 1984, in Fuentealbilla, Albacete, Spain. After joining the Albacete youth squad at age 10, he caught the attention of FC Barcelona management at a tournament, and entered the club's prestigious La Masia academy at age 12.
Iniesta enjoyed an early taste of international success with the junior national team, leading Spain to victories at the UEFA European Under-17 Championship in 2001 and the Under-19 Championship the following year.
Quiet But Deadly
Iniesta made his debut for FC Barcelona's first squad in a Champions League match in October 2002. He helped Barcelona win the league title in his first season as a regular in 2004-05, but truly emerged as a vital contributor when he stepped in for injured midfielder Xavi Hernández and sparked Barcelona to a La Liga and Champions League double the following year.
A natural midfielder with superb passing and dribbling abilities, Iniesta proved versatile enough to lead the offense from a forward role. Although his all-around talents were praised by teammates and opponents alike, the diminutive playmaker tended to recede in the background as stars such as Ronaldinho, Lionel Messi and Samuel Eto'o stole the spotlight for Barcelona.
Despite his quiet nature, Iniesta's brilliant play made him impossible to overlook for long. He starred at the 2008 European Championship, earning a spot on the Team of the Tournament after Spain topped Germany in the final. Eleven months later, he netted a last-minute goal vs. Chelsea in the Champions League semifinals, one of the highlights of a year in which Barcelona won a remarkable six trophies.
The pinnacle of Iniesta's career came during the 2010 FIFA World Cup final vs. Holland, when he knocked home a goal in extra time to give Spain its first World Cup championship. At the end of the year, he finished second to teammate Messi for soccer's biggest individual prize, the Ballon d'Or.
Spain made history as the first team to win three successive major international tournaments with its Euro 2012 victory, and Iniesta was named Player of the Tournament. Later that summer, he beat out two of soccer's most renowned scorers, Messi and Real Madrid striker Cristiano Ronaldo, to win the UEFA Best Player in Europe Award.
An invaluable member of the Barcelona roster, Iniesta was expected to sign a contract extension following the club's La Liga and Spanish Super Cup success in 2013.
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