Preparing for the day that Xavi can no longer do what he’s been doing so well for the past six-seven seasons, Barcelona have two players ready to take his place and “rule” in the middle without him: Andres Iniesta, and to a lesser degree, or simply different, Cesc Fabregas.
Because even if Fabregas is an actual central midfielder by definition and Andres Iniesta is usually more of an attacking one, even used on the wing at times when there’s no other option, Iniesta is much more capable of filling in for Xavi as the main distributor and pace setter in the midfield.
Fabregas is the better player when it comes to scoring. Not just the more goals he has scored over the last couple of seasons – Fabregas has 30 in all competitions, Iniesta has 14; Fabregas often plays in a more forward position because of his finishing, but his tendencies in attacking that he’s picked up from the Premier League, making him very unique in the La Liga.
Iniesta is the better passer, and overall probably the better player. He doesn’t have the amount of assists Fabregas has, but he usually doesn’t sit so close to the “danger” like Cesc. Iniesta is the one who frees up players in front of him with that unique dribbling of his or through his excellent passing and vision. It usually doesn’t show up on the stat sheets, but Iniesta, after Messi and Neymar, is the player most capable of handling double teams on his own through his incredible balance and body control.
Euro 2012 was the perfect example of how Iniesta should be the first in line to inherit Xavi. Iniesta didn’t win the tournament’s best player award for nothing, even if he didn’t have the goals to show for it. His ability to take over the midfield while Xavi was having a weak tournament until the final, where everything came together for Spain.
And while Fabregas has this unsettled label hanging over his head, although it is fading away this season, there’s no doubt where Andres Iniesta will play for the rest of his career. He’s been with Barcelona since the age of 11, and there’s no doubt that he’ll find the golden path with Barcelona regarding his contract negotiations.
I intend to end my career at Barcelona. The club feels the same. It’s not about money. We have time to keep improving our club and player relationship.
If Barcelona hang on to both players for the years to come, we shouldn’t see any drop in their ability to continue and blend the styles Martino has brought in (which isn’t such a drastic change from the past, only sometimes giving up on the short-ball from time to time, working perfectly for Fabregas) and Barcelona have always been known for. But while it’s unclear sometimes what Fabregas’ role is in all of this, Iniesta is perfectly suited and fitted for the things Barcelona are doing, and at some point will take over Xavi as the true heart and barometer of this team.