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Will Iniesta's exit mark the end of an era - and not just for Barcelona?


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"There’s the pitch. It’s yours. Play."

Such was ability and gracefulness of Andres Iniesta, then-Barcelona manager Louis van Gaal kept his instructions simple as he unleashed the future World Cup winner for his senior club debut. 

But time waits for no man and Iniesta is no different as his career at the highest level with Barcelona reaches its conclusion.

This week, he is expected to confirm that a relationship that has lasted from the age of 12 when he first arrived as a homesick Barcelona academy recruit will conclude 22 years and more than 30 major trophies later.

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China appears to be the destination for the man who scored the winning goal for Spain in the 2010 World Cup final and alongside Xavi Hernandez set the tone for a midfield revolution between 2008 and 2015 for club and national team.

As Iniesta prepares to step away from Barcelona, our European football correspondent Graham Hunter joined us to discuss the past, present and future for one of the game's most popular figures.

"I'm holding a breath to see whether he confirms this week as he promised he would do that he's leaving Football Club Barcelona," said Graham.

With football's demands and styles changing, it will be interesting to see whether players of his ilk will still be produced regularly.

"I wonder how often we'll get someone like him, who's genius on the ball, so exquisite and who is surrounded by players of such exquisite technique that it does not matter about his physical size, his height, his pace. Technique is still above everybody else," said Graham.

"I really wonder, not whether that era will come again because technique is always primary, but whether we haven't moved into a blend and I think what we're watching tonight [between Liverpool and Roma], it tells you we've moved into a blended era where technique and intelligence and strategy and quality of passing, quality of first control can be mixed with players of different physiques, engines and different height to Andres Iniesta."  

And he added that the greatest compliment Iniesta would have received this week was in Barca's 5-0 win over Sevilla in the Copa del Rey final when Sevilla's hugely disappointed fans still made the point of clapping him as he departed the pitch late on. 

Graham also detailed the inauspicious way Iniesta arrived at Barcelona and how he struggled to adapt after moving to the Catalan city from his home area near Albacete.


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