Andres Iniesta remains confident ahead of tough Barca schedule
Barcelona — Andres Iniesta is a busy guy, but no matter what demands are made on his time the Barcelona midfielder keeps smiling amiably through.
On Wednesday night Iniesta was man of the match in Spain’s 1-0 friendly win over Italy in Madrid. The next morning — after a quick flight and short sleep — he was at an ultramodern design hub near Barcelona’s waterfront amiably meeting media from all over the world at the unveiling of Nike’s new Magista’s soccer boot.
While Iniesta waited patiently off-stage those gathered learned that Nike Soccer’s evolution dates back to the mid-1990s, when its technicians started working with former Brazil striker Ronaldo. Current stars Iniesta, Mario Gotze of Germany and Brazil’s Thiago Silva are now involved in the product creation process, which is based out of Nike Sport Research Lab in Beaverton [Oregon], where 140 testers work under its VP of Sport Performance Footwear Phil McCartney.
"We are entering a new era where human potential and design technology are accelerating together at an unprecedented rate," McCartney said in salesman mode from the podium. "When these footballers play in these boots, the game of football will never be the same again."
In practical terms this means Iniesta has new lime green boots made from woven yarns of Flyknit material, featuring a dynamic fit collar which covers his ankle. When it was his turn to talk, the World Cup 2010 winner agreed taking part in the testing process had been fun.
"They are different [shoes] than anything we have seen before," he said. "It is new for me, totally different than those I have worn. I am happy to have helped in the process, testing them many times over these months. The big difference is they fit practically like a glove. As if it was your foot."
Many of the reporters present were just as interested in Iniesta’s thoughts on next Wednesday’s Champions League last 16 second leg at home to Manchester City. The blaugrana number eight told a side-cluster that even at 2-0 up from the first leg, he and his teammates would not be relaxing.
"One part is done," Iniesta said after waiting patiently for a question to be translated. "But the tie remains very difficult. I would not like anyone to think it is over. There are still 90 very tough minutes to play against an opponent with great players. We need to put everything into playing a very very good game, making a minimum of errors, to make the next round."
The 29-year-old said optimistically that the English side would have to attack, possibly leaving spaces behind for Barcelona to break into.
"City will have to come out and go for it," he said. "They need to score goals. We will try and take advantage of the spaces they leave at the back."
Big games are coming thick and fast for Barca just now, with a potentially title deciding La Liga Clasico at current leader Real Madrid just two weeks away.
"The most decisive, the most important part of the season is coming up," the blaugrana eight said with relish. We all have to be fully ready so we can end the campaign well."
Get through against City, and beat Madrid, and Barca will be well placed to provide a fitting send off for club captain Carles Puyol, who this week announced that injury issues meant he would be leaving the Camp Nou this summer. Sad news, but again Iniesta saw a reason to be hopeful.
"Carles leaving is difficult for us," he said. "Not just the player but the person. Our aim now is to end the season as successfully as possible. Winning trophies would be a perfect end for his career at Barca."
And with that the guest of honor smiled apologetically as he was whisked off to training at his club’s nearby Ciutat Esportiva, and eventually missing Barcelona’s stunning 1-0 to Real Valladolid on Saturday due to personal reasons.
The traveling reporters made the same trip on Friday morning, when Barca coaches demonstrated some of the training drills and small-sided games which all teams at the club [from youths to seniors] go through at each session.
As the reporters [and the Magista’s] were put through their paces on perfect practice pitches saturated by spring sunshine, Iniesta’s words from the day before came back.
"It is important that the player feels comfortable, that they feel good with the ball, moving with it, passing it," the World Cup winner said. "That is what they were looking for with this boot, and what has been achieved. In the zone I play, my task is to get on the ball, to combine with teammates, organize the play. When you feel good, it is a very positive combination."
Andres Iniesta as usual – was all smiles. Like a kid with new shoes.