Andres Iniesta is the longest-serving player in Barcelona’s squad. The 33-year-old arrived at La Masia at the age of 12 in 1996, and has gone on to win 30 trophies for the Catalan club. So the thought that he may leave is probably too much for many fans to bear.
All players move on eventually, either calling time on their playing days like Carles Puyol, to seek a new experience elsewhere as Neymar did, or to end their careers with a lucrative move to a lesser league, such as Xavi.
Iniesta, it has been reported in the Catalan press, is being tempted by such an offer from China. As well as high wages, it is said to include an agreement for advertising campaigns and also commercial promotion for his wines.
At the age of 33, he may well be tempted. In the knowledge that life after football will be less lucrative, players place much importance on their final contract and a mega-money deal in China would mean Iniesta would never need to work again.
Not that he really does anyway, of course, but even the wealthiest footballers can get a little nervous about the future when their careers are almost over. And Iniesta probably lacks the personality to be a coach or even a pundit when he hangs up his boots.
The midfielder brings in around €20 million after tax as part of his current contract, the first-ever “lifetime” deal offered to a player by Barca, and he is said to have turned down almost twice that amount (€35m) to play for an unnamed Chinese club.
Meanwhile, reports in Spain claim the player has invested around €5 million in his own businesses away from football, including the production of wine, cheese and olive oil, and that he has lost money in those operations.
However, he still should be more than comfortable on his current wages and for the moment, he is needed at Barcelona. Firstly, because he remains one of the world’s best midfielders. And secondly, to help January signing Philippe Coutinho adapt to life at the club.
Barca boss Ernesto Valverde was asked about the reports on Friday and said the club had not received any offer for Iniesta from China or anywhere else.
“If that happens, we will think about it then,” he said. “I don’t have anything to say. I haven’t even thought about it. Iniesta is with us and we want him to help us a lot, as he always does.”
Iniesta has played more under Valverde than he did last season under Luis Enrique, so it still seems the player has much to give at Camp Nou. And until the end of the season, he will focus on trying to help Barca win La Liga, the Copa del Rey and the Champions League.
Should Barca win another treble, he may just decide to walk away as Xavi did in the summer of 2015. That, however, would be a shame for the club, for the fans and for the player himself – because it will be a long time before the Camp Nou, or indeed Spanish football, sees his like again.