uruguay nt

I still remember how surprised my Uruguay team-mates were when I celebrated Iniesta’s winning goal in the World Cup final. I was shouting so much that they asked me why. I told them that my daughter was going to be born in Spain. I contacted Joel who looks after the players represented by Mediabase and asked him for Andrés’ number so that he could send him a message to congratulate him. We exchanged messages. We’d never met but through those messages we built a relationship of trust. Even my wife asked me once how come l followed his career so closely when we hadn’t even met. We didn’t actually meet until a Spain-Uruguay game in Qatar. And from there we were even closer. until I finally joined Barcelona! Andrés was the first person I spoke to when he arrived in Barcelona. He even told me to take the locker next to his in the dressing-room, he was the first to contact me, the first to put me at ease. He’s like me in many ways: we’re both family people and because we’re similar we quickly got on. I’ll never forget the message of support he sent me when l was accused of racism while at Liverpool. It surprised me that he took the time to send it. One of the most important people in football contacted me: that message meant more to me than the praise you get when you score. When I turned up for my first training session at Barcelona, there were two rondos going on, piggy-in-the-middle exercises. Andrés asked him which one I wanted to join: the Spaniards’ group or the foreigners’ one. Or, to put it another way: the fun one, or the other one. So I went with him, to the fun one. He welcomed me with open arms. He looked after me throughout that session. There are similarities with Steven Gerrard at liverpool: they’re role models, important figures in the game, people who have a particular way of understanding football and life, people to learn from. Andrés is admirable, someone I will always be grateful to. Time has brought us together. I have found that beneath the serious exterior, there’s a joker inside Andrés. You have to get to know him and he has to get to know you. And it’s not easy to be in sync on the pitch when you’re talking about a midfielder of short passes like him and a forward like me who looks for balls behind the defence, who stretches the game more. You need to give it time. One day he said to me: ‘What’s going on? You don’t get on the end of any of my passes. I can’t do more for you! What do you want from me?!’ I froze. I didn’t know what to say. And then he burst out: ‘I’m joking!’ l didn’t expect it; his sense of humour is very much his own, dry, and it can take a little bit of tuning in to; you don’t always realize he’s joking. I remember another time I sent him a joke by SMS and I ended up getting a bit worried because he didn’t reply. I thought that maybe I’d upset him. It wasn’t until later that he replied. There are times when you’re sitting having lunch and Andrés throws one of his jokes into the mix and just carries on eating as if he hasn’t said a word. He’s the same in the rondo: if he plays a poor pass that you can’t control, which he doesn’t do often, he doesn’t look at you. Instead he acts as if it’s your fault, nothing to do with his pass, of course. For me, it’s easier to decipher Iniesta on the pitch than off it.  He expresses himself with the ball. You think you’re going to get it off him but you never do; you watch as, at the last second, he pulls it away from you. He’s done you, yet again. it doesn’t matter if you go at him from the side or from behind. You can sneak up on him silently, thinking you’re going to nick the ball off him, but he always escapes: suddenly, he’s off in the other direction, going the opposite way to what you expected. And you‘re left chasing shadows. When he gets the ball, I leave him to get on with it. I’m out of there.  And he does it all so effortlessly, there’s something so natural about it. It’s an honour to play with Leo and Andrés and they have something in common too. It’s a dream come true for me, I really. enjoy it. In part, I see a bit of me in Andrés in terms of the effort. It hasn’t been easy for either of us to make it. We have had to persevere and we’ve both had to rely on our families. He’s a great father, too. I’m quieter off the pitch than people think: I might look like a madman at times, but I’m a different person away from the game, much calmer. Andrés has treated me so well and I really appreciate that.
—  Luis Suárez talking about Andrés Iniesta.