Barcelona tied down captain Andres Iniesta for the rest of his career as the club announced on Friday the 33-year-old midfielder has agreed a “lifetime contract”.
“Iniesta signed a lifetime contract with FC Barcelona on Friday, in a deal that will keep him at the club for the rest of his career,” Barca said in a statement.
Along with five-time World Player of the Year Lionel Messi, Iniesta is Barca’s most decorated player of all-time having won 30 trophies at club level, including eight La Liga titles and four Champions Leagues.
Iniesta has also made the second highest number of appearances in a Barca shirt behind Xavi Hernandez with 639 since his debut 15 years ago.
Born in the central Spanish region of Castilla-La Mancha before joining Barca at the age of 12, Iniesta is a beloved figure across Spain as he scored the winning goal in the 2010 World Cup final.
Normally determined to shy away from the spotlight, Iniesta spoke out on Thursday to urge negotiation and prevent a spiralling political crisis over the battle for Catalan independence deepening.
Hundreds required medical attention on Sunday as voters in a referendum on independence, deemed illegal by Spain’s central government, clashed with police.
“I have never before publicly commented on situations that are so complex and involve such diverse emotions, but this situation we are experiencing is exceptional,” Iniesta wrote in a Facebook post.
“One thing I know for sure: before we do any more harm, those who are responsible for all this must hold dialogue.
“Do it for all of us. We deserve to live in peace.”
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) October 6, 2017
Iniesta has previously tended to do his talking on the field as a fundamental figure in Barca’s most successful ever era. Alongside long-time midfield partner Xavi for both club and country, Iniesta formed the axis of Pep Guardiola’s legendary side that won 14 trophies in four years between 2008 and 2012.
His previous contract was due to expire at the end of the season and doubts over his future were raised when he refuted Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu’s claims a deal “in principle” was in place last month.
Bartomeu has received fierce criticism for his handling of both sporting and institutional matters in recent months.
He decided to play Barca’s home game against Las Palmas on Sunday behind closed doors as a protest against events in Catalonia on Sunday, leading to the resignation of two board members.
And Barca’s haphazard approach in the transfer market following Neymar’s world record departure to Paris Saint-Germain also saw Bartomeu face a vote of no confidence from disgruntled club members.
However, in tying down Iniesta, Bartomeu has at least ensured that one of Barca’s all-time greats will see out the rest of his career at the Camp Nou.
Barcelona Football Club and its captain Andres Iniesta on Thursday urged dialogue to resolve a volatile political crisis over Catalonia’s drive for independence.
“I have never before publicly commented on situations that are so complex and involve such diverse emotions, but this situation we are experiencing is exceptional,” the 33-year-old midfielder wrote in a Facebook message.
“One thing I know for sure: before we do any more harm, those who are responsible for all this must hold dialogue. Do it for all of us. We deserve to live in peace.”
Iniesta was the hero of Spain’s 2010 World Cup final victory over the Netherlands, scoring his side’s dramatic late goal in a 1-0 win after extra time.
He was born in the central Spanish region of Castilla-La Mancha but joined FC Barcelona when he was 12 years old.
Tensions mounted between Catalonia and Madrid this week after Catalans went ahead with a banned independence referendum that was marred by police violence.
The government has refused calls for mediation in the dispute and Catalan leaders have threatened to declare independence in days.
The football club, one of the biggest in the world and a strong symbol of Catalan identity, called for “dialogue and respect” in a separate statement.
“FC Barcelona, as one of the country’s best-known entities, demands that a process of dialogue and negotiation be launched to find political solutions to the situation Catalonia is experiencing,” it said.
It added that the process should be carried out “with the utmost respect for the will of the Catalan people to decide their future.”
Iniesta’s Barcelona teammate Gerard Pique, a Catalan native and another Spain World Cup hero, was jeered by fans at training this week for supporting the independence referendum.
He insisted he would keep playing for Spain until he retires from international football after next year’s World Cup.
Dialogue, respect and sport pic.twitter.com/jTolVSAsSk
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) October 5, 2017
Barcelona will join a strike called across Catalonia on Tuesday in protest at a violent crackdown by police of an independence referendum called by pro-separatist politicians for the region on Sunday.
“FC Barcelona joins the country wide strike called for by Table for Democracy and therefore the club will be closed tomorrow,” Barca said in a statement on Monday.
“None of the professional teams or the youth teams at FC Barcelona will train tomorrow.”
Clashes as police fired rubber bullets and forced their way into polling stations, often violently removing activists, to confiscate ballots left at least 92 people confirmed injured out of a total of 844 who needed medical attention, according to Catalan authorities.
“We strongly condemn the violence carried out by the state’s security forces to impede the October 1 referendum,” said a 44-strong group of organisations, including leading unions, in calling the strike.
In light of the incidents, Barca played their match against Las Palmas behind closed doors on Sunday.
Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu said the club made the decision as a protest against the violent clashes rather than security concerns.
The vast majority of Barcelona’s stars, including five-time World Player of the Year Lionel Messi and Gerard Pique, who has been an outspoken defender of Catalonia’s right to self-determination, wouldn’t have trained with Barca on Tuesday in any case as they are on international duty with their respective nations.
FC Barcelona joins the country wide strike called for by Table for Democracy and therefore the Club will be closed tomorrow.
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) October 2, 2017
Provided by AFP Sport