If Spain win the World Cup on Sunday, Andres Iniesta will have won every competition available to him. At 26 he would become the third youngest player ever to do this, and the first since Uli Hoeness completed his set in 1974.
For some reason, even now, he seems to be underrated. Perhaps it's because he plays with so many incredible players at Barcelona and for the national team. Xavi, Messi & Villa get much more attention, and while that's not exactly outrageous, given his importance to both sides it is a little unfair. He wasn't fit for the Champions League semi final with Inter, and Barcelona couldn't break them down, then wasn't fit for the opening game against Switzerland and Spain couldn't break them down either.
Xavi is the creator, Villa is the goalscorer, but Iniesta makes the difference. Since returning to the side against Chile, he has made every goal except Villa's slightly freakish opener in that game. Before you all start shouting about Puyol's header on Wednesday night, it was Iniesta who skinned probably the best right back in the world, Phillip Lahm, to win the corner from which he scored.
It's not just during this tournament either, cast your minds back to a couple of weeks before the World Cup began, when you were young, free, and full of hope. As the mighty England were being outplayed by Mexico and beating Japan without scoring a goal, Spain absolutely destroyed Poland. Their second in a 6-0 thrashing was utterly, utterly brilliant. Iniesta's driving run is good, the interchange with Xavi and David Silva is great, but the scoop over the defence is masterful. You have to see this goal to truly appreciate it, so I've helpfully included a Youtube link at the bottom.
It's interesting reading what some people who've played with or against 'El Ilusionista' (The Illusionist, which I like. He's also apparently called 'Cerebro', the brain. Not bad) have said about him afterwards. I'll include some of them at the bottom of the page as well. What that tells us, and they are from some people who know the odd thing about the game, is that the only way to stop Barcelona, or stop Spain, is to stop Iniesta. No one can stop Iniesta, so they both keep winning. Are Holland going to stop him? I don't think so. Can I proclaim anyone other than Messi as the best player in the world? I don't know, I'm not sure there has ever been anyone as good as Messi, and he will undoubtedly be the player of his generation. So with that in mind, if there's a 'best of the rest', Andres Iniesta heads that list.
Oh, and Paul the octopus has picked Spain, is there any point in playing?
David Silva's goal against Poland (what a soundtrack)
Samuel Eto'o: "When I said Iniesta was the world's best, you laughed. Now you can see I'm right"
Alex Ferguson: "I'm not obsessed with Messi, Iniesta is the danger. He's fantastic. He makes the team work. The way he finds passes, his movement and ability to create space is incredible. He's so important for Barcelona."
Pep Guardiola (to Xavi): "You're going to retire me. This lad is going to retire us all."
Xavi himself: "Iniesta is easily Spain's most complete player. He has everything"
A Barca coach: "Everything, but everything, he does makes his team-mates better players"
And to end, Victor Valdes, the Barcelona keeper who is also at this World Cup, asked about Iniesta last season:
"Andrés has been the best for years."