Andres Iniesta’s All-Round Brilliance Too Much For Madrid in Clasico Rout

Andres Iniesta Barcelona

When Andres Iniesta was taken off in the 76th minute of Barcelona’s clinical thrashing of Real Madrid, at the Santiago Bernabeu, the Madrid faithful gave him a richly deserved round of applause, just as they did for Ronaldinho 10 years ago.

This was a clear sign of appreciation of his genuis from the hapless, dejected home supporters. They knew how decisive he’d been. They knew their side had no answers for him, or his teammates, on this historic occasion. 4-0 it finished, an ultimate humiliation indeed.

Captaining Barca for first time in a match vs. Real Madrid, in his 32nd clasico (more than any current Barca player), Iniesta yet again showed what a sublime player he really is. Aside from supplying an assist and scoring a goal, the way he ensured his side dominated and controlled this collosal clash was a pleasure to watch. Madrid couldn’t get near him, in a match where he additionally dazzled his opposition by getting through a wicked four successful dribbles and completing an exceptional 95.7% of his 69 passes.

Remaining unfazed and assured whenever confronted with pressure from Madrid allowed him to wreak havoc with his distribution. In true Barcelona style, his one and two touch passing game, combined with his masterful decision making ability, constantly saw him able to unlock Madrid’s defensive setup and set up others. Another thing that shone through in the contest was his telepathic understanding with Sergio Busquets. The pair found each other on 16 occasions throughout the match, with Iniesta’s intelligence to locate himself within close proximity of his teammate ensuring Busquets always had a reliable outlet to use nearby. Madrid just couldn’t come to terms with their link play, as the duo were immune to whatever Rafa Benitez’s outfit threw at them.

Iniesta’s clever body positioning when he receives possession also sees him able to see off opponents on the half turn or protect the ball sufficiently, and this was no different in this clasico.

The finest example of this arose on 39 minutes. Here, upon obtaining the ball around 45 yards out from goal with Luka Modric and Toni Kroos right next to him, Iniesta, using his scarcely believable close control, somehow managed to spin away from the onrushing duo to simultaneously take them both out of the picture. Now with space ahead of him, the Spanish international assessed his options and noticed Neymar embarking on a out-to-in run, looking to get in behind the Madrid defence. Iniesta duly obliged Neymar’s tidy run by playing a delicate, lofted through ball right into his path for the Brazilian to run onto and score. With the score now 2-0 in Barcelona’s favour, this magnificent passage from Iniesta effectively sealed Madrid’s fate.

Without the ball, the 31-year-old was equally impressive, for he astutely found space in and around the likes of Modric, Kroos and James Rodriguez in which to receive. Iniesta’s ability to identifiy tiny pockets in between Madrid’s midfielders, plus the fact his teammates were never afraid to utilise him, such is their insurmountable confidence in him, parlayed to see him act as a hugely challenging proposition for Los Merengues to limit.

Unsurprisingly, his cerebral movement played a key role in his wonderfully well taken goal that came in the 59th minute. With Barcelona working the ball neatly out on the right, as soon as he observed Ivan Rakitic pick up possession in a central position, Iniesta darted into the space right in front of Madrid’s central defenders. He looked up, scanned his options and played a pinpoint ball towards Neymar. Being an undisputed master of Barcelona’s pass and move philosophy, Iniesta motored forward after playing his pass. Neymar, well aware of this, spectacularly found him with a cheeky back-heel. The ball fell to Iniesta just inside the box, and he capped off the move in the best possible way – by rifling a wicked first-time piledriver into the top right corner. Another move of beauty from Barca. This time, though, it was Neymar who turned supplier and Iniesta finisher.

The two didn’t limit their teamwork to solely attacking situations, however, as they supported each other marvelously on the defensive end too.

Prime examples of this came when Iniesta would press high up the pitch, alongside Luis Suarez, and search to force Madrid’s centre-backs into a turnover. In such cases, Neymar would selflessly shift across and take Iniesta’s opponent, Modric, in order to make life even more difficult for their opposition to pass out from the back. Iniesta would return the favour by covering in behind Neymar when he attacked, plus he’d also helped his colleague deal with the attacking forays of Danilo.

In his post-match interview Iniesta summed up his team’s outstanding collective performance, saying: “We played a complete game. We were very effective.”

Luis Enrique, his delighted manager, justifyably singled out Iniesta for lavish praise in his post-match comments after his majestic display. “He is unique,” Enrique said. “He has magic and he has eyes in the back of his neck.”

To show his class as a gentleman, Iniesta even politely made a point of thanking the Madrid fans for their generous ovation in his post-match comments.

While it’s a rare sight to see such adulation for an opposition player in modern football, the Madrid faithful were in unison that he unquestionably deserved it.

Iniesta, like Ronaldinho 10 years ago, is just that good.