Andrés Iniesta, once hailed as one of the finest midfielders in history during his prime, left an indelible mark on the world of soccer. As a vital component of the legendary Barcelona and Spain national teams, he achieved unparalleled success in both club and international competitions, leaving an enduring legacy.
A Fresh Challenge in the UAE
Iniesta’s departure from his beloved Barcelona in 2018 did not signal the end of his illustrious career. Instead, it marked the beginning of a new adventure in a vastly different part of the world.
After bidding farewell to Spain, Iniesta embarked on a journey with Japanese club Vissel Kobe, where he enjoyed reasonable success over the following five years. During his time at Vissel Kobe, Iniesta helped the club win their first-ever Emperor’s Cup in 2019 and their first-ever Japanese Super Cup in 2020. He also played a key role in Vissel Kobe’s run to the quarter-finals of the AFC Champions League in 2020.
This year, with his playing time dwindling in Japan, Iniesta sought a new challenge. Amidst interest from various corners, including Major League Soccer (MLS), Iniesta eventually inked a one-year contract with the UAE-based Emirates Club.
There are many things to be improved [in the local football scene], so I can really use my experience to enhance the football landscape here. I am thrilled to be here, and I am very happy with the warm reception I have received. I’m just hoping to do the best I can.
Life in the UAE
Despite signing a one-year deal, Iniesta retains the option to extend his stay, although he’s currently focused on savoring the upcoming season.
The midfielder revealed that his family is quickly adapting to life in their new home city of Ras Al Khaimah. The city is known for its stunning beaches and luxurious resorts, offering plenty of opportunities for relaxation and leisure.
In his first start for Emirates Club, Iniesta scored a late penalty in a thrilling 4-4 draw against Ajman Club. He had previously made his debut, coming off the bench in a 1-0 defeat on August 19.
At my age, I still have the dream of playing, to train, and to have fun, and that’s why I take care of myself.
Before joining Emirates Club, there were reports of Inter Miami attempting to lure the Spanish legend to MLS. The club revamped its starting lineup this year with the signings of three of Iniesta’s former Barcelona teammates: Lionel Messi, Sergio Busquets, and Jordi Alba.
Messi, in particular, has excelled since moving to North America. However, it could have been a different story for the Argentine superstar.
Iniesta acknowledged that Messi’s return to Catalonia would have been “amazing” but respects both his friend and the club’s decisions.
“We want football to grow”
In the coming year, Iniesta is committed to elevating the stature of soccer in the UAE, a trend gaining momentum across the Gulf region.
Several of Europe’s top stars, including Neymar, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Karim Benzema, have joined Saudi Arabian teams this season as the region seeks to catalyze a soccer revolution.
While such moves have faced scrutiny from some quarters due to concerns over human rights issues and financial transparency, Iniesta emphasized that players like himself are simply striving to advance the sport in the best possible manner.
In addition to his on-field contributions at Emirates Club, Iniesta is also expected to play a role off the field as an ambassador for soccer in the UAE. His experience and knowledge will be invaluable as he works with local coaches and players to develop their skills and understanding of the game.
In conclusion, Andrés Iniesta’s move to Emirates Club represents an exciting new chapter in his storied career. As he continues to play at a high level and share his expertise with those around him, he is sure to leave an indelible mark on soccer in the UAE and beyond. His passion for soccer is evident not only through his performances on the field but also through his dedication towards improving soccer culture wherever he goes. With his wealth of experience and knowledge about soccer at both club and international levels, Iniesta is sure to make an impact on soccer culture in UAE.