Will Lionel Messi struggle to perform without Andres Iniesta?
When Pep Guardiola won the treble in his first season at Barcelona's helm, Lionel Messi stole the show. The Argentine sensation became an idol to many, earning the admiration of coaches and players around the world. Blaugrana represented how football should be played. Messi was their catalyst. Such was his influence, he won the FIFA Ballon d'Or four consecutive years from 2009-12.
Yet, despite Messi's undoubted skills and goal-scoring prowess, he benefitted a great deal from playing alongside Xavi and Andres Iniesta. The midfield duo were Barcelona's marshals for over a decade. The two World Cup winners helped their Argentinian teammate thrive at the Camp Nou.
Xavi, Iniesta and Messi proved instrumental to Barcelona claiming an unprecedented six trophies in 2009. The trio were Barca's heartbeat.
After winning another treble six seasons later, Xavi left the Catalans for the Chinese Super League.
In Xavi's absence, Iniesta pulled the strings in midfield for three more years. Messi also stepped up. As well as winning individual honours, he became more adept at controlling a game's tempo.
With Iniesta set to leave Barcelona at the season's end, can Messi once again fill an enormous void?
Iniesta's performance played a major role in Messi claiming five Ballon d'Or awards. They were a formidable partnership. With the Spaniard's help, the Argentina international shattered many records. Winning four European Golden Boots stands out.
Messi's entire career has been at Barcelona. He has won an incredible 32 trophies, including nine La Ligas, four Champions Leagues and six Copas del Rey. During his success, though, Iniesta has been present throughout.
Andres Iniesta deserves more recognition. He is one of the world's most decorated footballers. His club trophy cabinet contains nine La Ligas, four Champions Leagues, six Copas del Rey, seven Spanish Super Cups and three UEFA Super Cups. Furthermore, the Spaniard played a huge role in his national team's success at the 2010 World Cup, scoring the decisive goal. He also contributed to Spain's triumph at Euro 2008 and then again four years later.
Making his World Cup debut aged 18, Messi played in three matches at Germany 2006, scoring once and providing an assist. He failed to find the net in the next edition, though. in 2014, his four goals helped Argentina reach the final in Brazil. La Albiceleste lost 1-0 to Germany.
In the Copa America, Argentina have been runners-up on the last two occasions. Despite at times dragging Barcelona to glory, Messi has failed to repeat the feat for his country.
Perhaps things would have been different for Messi had Iniesta represented Argentina.
As well as scoring 57 goals, Iniesta has made 669 appearances across all competitions for Barcelona. Having made his first-team debut 16 years ago, he provides valuable experience. The 33-year-old is irreplaceable.
Messi is no doubt a Barcelona icon. His name belongs near the top of the all-time greatest players list. Without Iniesta, though, he may find it difficult to maintain peak performance next season.