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?