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Andres Iniesta's lifetime contract a double-edged sword

Saturday 14th October 2017
Andres Iniesta's new lifetime contract is being questioned. Didn't Barcelona object to PSG's buy-now-pay-later policy? At least that was for a young player.

The captain is still eager to play on a regular basis. Nonetheless, at 33, it's hard to envisage him on the Camp Nou pitch for many more seasons. Here are three reasons why Iniesta's new deal can have both positive and negative consequences:

Future plans

Real Madrid's current successful cycle has many fans and critics wondering whether Barcelona have regressed. The Guardiola era ended in 2012. The MSN trio wreaked havoc in Pep's wake but that ended this summer.

Neymar's £200 million departure for Paris Saint-Germain was a shock. While the club has been bitter in the media, Ousmane Dembele's signing proves it is investing well in talented young players to set the stage for seasons to come.

Timo Werner and Kylian Mbappé have been on the Nou Camp radar in the past few months. If their protest against PSG's spending bears fruit, you can bet they will again be in the running for the former Monaco star.

Belief remains that Barcelona's midfield is not good enough. That is why players like Philippe Coutinho and Marco Verratti have been linked with moves. André Gomes has struggled since his big money switch from Valencia. Sergi Roberto's versatility continues to be utilised across the pitch. Ivan Rakitic, never fleet of foot, will be 30 come spring.
Barcelona's forward thinking shouldn't come as a surprise to Iniesta, with the players he's seen come and go during his time. Ronaldinho. Samuel Eto'o. David Villa. Yaya Toure. Seydou Keita. Cesc Fabregas. Xavi. The recent dependence on forwards has left Barca exposed against top sides. Focus must shift again to return to the Champions League picture. Spreading his wages out over a longer period does allow the club to invest more freely.

Waning influence

Troublesome injuries and squad rotation combine to justify why Iniesta's place isn't always guaranteed. His only memorable contribution through last year's competition was the brace against Manchester City in the group stages.

His displays during Barca's 2015 Champions League triumph were his best in recent seasons. Cool and calm in possession, Iniesta is a reliable operator who creates chances and space from midfield.
Since then, he's aged and defenders have wised up. They've identified his threat and, through a high press that forces him into uncomfortable situations, nullify it. That he's lost a step makes it more difficult to escape.

As a result, he doesn't have the freedom to roam, dribble, or create as much. Instead, he recycles the ball, trying to maintain possession. Without defensive protectors who can lessen his load by sharing his responsibilities, Iniesta has too much on his plate against top sides.

"I'll always be of the opinion that the more you play, the better you will be in the sense that you reach an optimum point and feel good, confident and comfortable on the field."--on Catalunya Radio

Iniesta is quietly doing work to improve his defensive game, making him less predictable in the process. It's testament to his eagerness for more at a stage in his career where many look for an easy, graceful exit.
Nine tackles and five interceptions this term, with less than 500 minutes under his belt, is fairly impressive. To compare, he recorded 91 combined in total during the 2015/16 campaign over a 3,100 minute span.

He's still got it

After Barcelona's trying summer, you can excuse staff members for believing they've appeased fans somewhat with this move. Iniesta is a club legend who has amassed 600 appearances during his 15-year career as a professional. The possibility his contract would be allowed to run down while sides like Juventus monitored the situation seemed suicidal.

When a club legend like Xavi is criticising your transfer dealings, there's an issue.

They have gone to sleep because five or six years ago, they had the best players in the world for the system that they wanted to play. Now for that system they have five or six who fit the system but need 11 to make it work. Before, you would never see a player and think, 'He would be good at Barca', because they were all there already. They have signed players who do not fit the system.

Having predominantly played in the middle for large periods of his professional career, it's understandable Iniesta's scoring statistics aren't particularly impressive. Regardless, he's still an important part of Barcelona's side.

It's very easy to criticise him for physical reasons. While it can appear easy to isolate and render him ineffective, he's sufficiently intelligent to create space and orchestrate chances from deeper roles without having to do too much.

If given adequate protection as part of a midfield three, he can effortlessly unlock defences. That has been clear for decades. Now, he's becoming increasingly adventurous but retains possession so well, in itself an under-appreciated skill.

During Barcelona's 3-0 win over Juventus in last month's Champions League group stage meeting, Iniesta was excellent. Only Lionel Messi, who netted a match-winning brace, surpassed his performance level on the night.
Questions about his suitability and whether he deserves a regular starting place within the side will continue to rumble. Many have already suggested he's purely in the team based on previous achievement. We're living in a result-oriented business.

Iniesta's world-class capabilities are subtle and therefore often go unnoticed. It's frustrating for such a legendary figure to receive such constant backlash over his performances. As a neutral, you hope it fuels the fire within him to continue playing at the top level, for a few seasons yet.

Stats sourced from Squawka and WhoScored
Mosope Ominiyi
Mosope is an enthusiast of young talent across European football. Former sports editor at VAVEL, he writes for a range of different sites - follow him @Football365Mo to keep updated with his writing on various platforms.

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