After almost 15 years of glorious service to Barcelona, Andres Iniesta is preparing to say farewell to his boyhood club. Still one of the world’s elite midfielders, the Fuentealbilla native should find no shortage of offers if, as expected, he pulls the curtain on his Camp Nou reign in Friday’s press conference.
But what – and where – does Iniesta’s future hold? With potential offers from Europe, the United States and China he will have a tough decision to make when it comes to taking the next step in his brilliant career.
While some doubt still remains over his next club, all indications at least suggest that it will be outside of Europe. That may come as some disappointment to Manchester City, who had been linked to a possible reunion between Iniesta and his beloved former coach, Pep Guardiola at the Etihad Stadium.
Paris Saint-Germain too were apparently interested in taking the Spain international to the French capital, to add flair and experience to a team that has dominated domestically but consistently fallen short in the Champions League – but that desire, too, is destined to go unanswered.
There was even a cheeky proposal pitched by one of Barcelona’s La Liga rivals.
“Iniesta, please don’t go to China, come to Betis instead!” Betis coach Quique Setien joked on Twitter earlier in the week. The tantalising prospect of Iniesta joining forces with Joaquin, however, is unlikely; as is the thought of the 33-year-old heading to his very first club, Albacete, whom he left at the age of 12 but where he still holds strong bonds, even owning shares in the Segunda Division team.
A journey across the Atlantic to a top club in the US or Mexico has also been ruled out, leaving the burgeoning football continent of Asia as the prime candidate to secure Iniesta’s services.
Chinese Superleague side Tianjin Quanjian have already seen Iniesta’s arrival mooted, and have had to deny reports that a contract offer had already been sent. They nevertheless remain one of the favourites to land the star midfielder, who is hopeful of strengthening his brand of wines in China, according to reports that have appeared in the Spanish press.
Qatar too has emerged on the horizon as a suitable destination. If Iniesta chooses the Middle Eastern state, as well as a presumably bumper pay package he would have extra reason for picking one club in particular.
Al-Sadd, 13-time winners of the Qatari league, boast a not-so secret weapon in their wooing of the Barca legend. Midfielder Xavi was Iniesta’s partner-in-crime during Barcelona’s glory days, forming perhaps the greatest midfield partnership ever seen; and the 38-year-old is still strutting his stuff in the Middle East despite approaching his fourth decade.
The idea of seeing Iniesta and Xavi sharing a pitch again is one that should make any football fan’s mouth water, and if Al-Sadd succeed in their approach it might just become reality from the 2018-19 season onwards.
Perhaps only Iniesta knows right now what his future holds – and perhaps not even he is sure at this point. But whereever he goes one thing is certain: he will be sorely missed by the faithful back at Camp Nou and across European football