2010 will be the year of Iniesta
Wayne Rooney called him the best player on the planet.
Influential Spanish magazine Don Balon rated him as the most consistent performer in the 2008-09 La Liga season, ahead of teammates Xavi Hernandez and Lionel Messi.
When FC Barcelona inked him to a long-term deal, the contract included a 150-millio euro buyout clause to scare off possible suitors, namely Real Madrid.
And he's so good that he routinely beats out fellow creative genius Cesc Fabregas for a starting position with the Spanish national team.
Andres Iniesta may just be the best midfielder in the game today, his sublime passes, exquisite playmaking ability and overall versatility making him a crucial player for both club (FC Barcelona) and country (Spain).
Indeed, Iniesta was a key figure in Barcelona's treble-winning season, scoring important goals (including one against Chelsea in the semifinals of the UEFA Champions League) and earning praise from Rooney after helping the Catalan club defeat Manchester United in the Champions League final in May.
Had Iniesta played at the Confederations Cup (he missed the tournament due a thigh injury) chances are La Roja would have won the tournament, instead of bowing out in the semifinals following a shocking loss to the U.S.
It really begs the question how, exactly, did he finish fifth in voting for this year's FIFA world player of the year award? Messi was a deserved winner, but Iniesta was, by all accounts, the second-best player in the world this year, and yet he finished behind Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka and Xavi in the balloting.
Quite shameful that he didn't finish runner-up, but it really doesn't matter because if this past year was any indication, 2010 will be the year of Iniesta.
Iniesta, who turns 26 in May, will again be a key figure for Barcelona as they try to duplicate their treble success for a season ago. Thus far, the Catalans are on course, sitting top of the La Liga table at the Christmas break and having advanced to the second round of the Copa del Ray and Champions League, thanks in large part to the efforts on Iniesta.
The Spanish national team will also benefit from the silky skills of the Barcelona star, who helped La Roja win the European championship two years ago.
Iniesta walks in the shadows of Messi and his more famous Barcelona teammates, but the young Spaniard is truly in a class by himself and is destined to emerge from the darkness and lead Spain to glory in South Africa.
If he does, you can bet he'll finish higher than fifth in voting for the 2010 FIFA world player of the year award.
About the Author
John F. Molinaro is a reporter for CBCSports.ca whose chief love is soccer.
John served as senior editor of CBC's 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup website and was the driving force behind our coverage of the 2006 FIFA World Cup. His work on CBC Sports Online's Euro 2004 site earned him a CBC.ca Award of Excellence.
He holds an honours BA in sociology from York University and a print journalism diploma from Sheridan College.