By Sergi Escudero
Barcelona, Dec 21 (EFE).- Lionel Messi won the 2022 World Cup in an “extraordinary fashion” but his high level performance at the tournament at the age of 35 was not surprising given his career-long track record of proving himself a decisive factor on the pitch, says his former teammate, FC Barcelona and Spain legend Andrés Iniesta.
Iniesta, Vissel Kobe midfielder and 2010 World Cup winner with Spain, sat down for a chat with Efe during the launch of his clothing and football boot brand Capitten.
The 38-year-old player touched on a wide range of topics from Messi’s fairytale World Cup victory, Spain’s performance in Qatar, the current situation at his former club Barça to his chances of playing beyond 40.
EFE: Did Leo Messi mention his desires to win a World Cup during your time together at Barcelona?
INIESTA: We didn’t talk about it too much, but it is always the dream of any player, and more so for a player like Leo. In the end, he achieved it in an extraordinary fashion.
EFE: For a top-tier football player like Messi or yourself, is winning the World Cup both an immense pleasure and a weight off your shoulders?
INIESTA: In his case, you would have to ask him, but for me it wasn’t the case. There are millions of footballers who haven’t won a World Cup. Winning it is something incredible, unique and historic, but for me it wasn’t a case of getting a weight off my shoulders because I never had that. In Leo’s case, and not just him but Argentina as a country, they have always had that goal of winning it.
EFE: Were you surprised at Messi’s top level performance in the World Cup at the age of 35?
INIESTA: No, I wasn’t surprised. He has always been at the highest level in every game and has been a decisive factor his entire career. In the end, he showed that again. Until he stops playing, he will always showcase the top level he is capable of offering.
EFE: Spain’s team crashed out in the quarterfinals, did you expect them to go further?
INIESTA: I have always had a lot of confidence in this group of players, but in the World Cup any game can punish you and generate doubts. The game against Japan created a lot of doubts, especially in the press, and meant that they did not confront the quarterfinal game against Morocco in the same way.
EFE: The core of the Spain team is still very young, do you think in 3.5 years, at the 2026 World Cup, they will be better prepared?
INIESTA: If the core remains the same, and everything keeps heading in the same direction, the experience of having played in the World Cup and the Euros will give them a boost. But it will depend on their performance.
EFE: It is precisely this core of players that makes up much of Barcelona’s squad. On Monday you spoke with your former teammate (and Barça coach) Xavi Hernández during a training session. Will Spain’s progression over time help Barcelona, too?
INIESTA: Relatively speaking, yes. Both teams have been transforming when it comes to the players in their squads.
EFE: For a long time now you’ve had business projects beyond your role as a football player. What inspired you to embark on that path?
INIESTA: Over time you realize that you’re not just a football player, but you’re also a person with different tastes and dreams, whether they are related to football or not. The latest project is Capitten, a brand of football boots and clothes. I’ve had it in mind for years, but I couldn’t go ahead with it because I was sponsored by other brands.
EFE: You have one year left on your contract with Vissel Kobe (J1 League). In May you turn 39, will you surpass the 40-year-old milestone as a professional football player?
INIESTA: Football-speaking I’m feeling great and I’ll start this year (in Japan, the season begins in February) with the hope of continuing to play football. From there, we will have to see how I feel, or if other opportunities open up. I live very much in the present. But I wouldn’t rule out breaking the 40 barrier as a player. EFE