Louis van Gaal was one of the coaches who was most focused on youth during his time as Barcelona coach. He knew about the importance of it and spent a lot of time watching the club’s youth sides in action. It was the Dutchman who gave chances to players who have been vital to the modern history of Barcelona: Andres Iniesta, Carles Puyol, Xavi, Victor Valdes, Thiago Motta, Pepe Reina and more…
When I was Barcelona coach, I always thought it was very important to give opportunities to young players.
Every week, I watched the youth team’s games with my fellow coaching staff.
I followed footballers like Iniesta, Xavi, Motta… with Andres, I quickly realised that he deserved an opportunity.
In the youth side, he had already demonstrated his great quality, which could develop in the first team.
I watched how he worked on the field. As well as Xavi. Many people told me that the two were the same but I thought that Iniesta had more quality because tactically, he was incredible.
He could see things before anyone else and knew exactly what to do in small spaces.
According to the different situations, he always made very good decisions and was very fast with his passing.
You see [Lionel] Messi now and he is also a very fast player but Andres was different.
He has a great ability to dribble like Leo but in small spaces, he had more quality and speed of execution.
This quality has been observed for 17 years.
It was difficult to imagine at that time that he would go this far, despite the quality that he had already demonstrated.
But there is more. Iniesta is not just reduced to his excellence as a footballer because he’s always been a fantastic professional.
He is a great person too and when a great person, in his modesty, is smart enough to surround himself with the right people, everything is easier.
Is is true that he wasn’t a player with a great physique but the physical aspect can develop over the years, while the tactical qualities are difficult to acquire.
At that time, the physios also weren’t as important as they are now, but nowadays, the physicality of a player is beginning to have much more importance.
A player who is tactically good and quick in their execution will always win.
That happened to Iniesta, Xavi and Messi. They are so fast that the physical aspect isn’t as important.
I’m very glad that Iniesta has had this brilliant career.
Not only because he is a great player but because he is an excellent human being.
That is something which, in the world of football today, is not easy.