Never has one football player been more universally celebrated than Barcelona and Spain’s Andres Iniesta.

Once again this past weekend, we saw opposition fans, in this case Sevilla, heartily applaud him as he left the Wanda Metropolitano pitch after stamping his name all over the 2018 Copa Del Rey final.

No matter that he’d played the fullest part in destroying their team, the Andalusians wanted to pay homage to a player that will soon leave for China.

To acclaim him as one of their own.

The player who had provided the single biggest moment in Spanish football in 2010.

That extra-time goal in South Africa has ensured that he’s been lauded wherever he goes.

Unheard of in the modern era, he’s also managed to transcend Catalan rivalry. Once his shot against the Netherlands had nestled in the net, Iniesta removed his shirt to reveal a message scrawled on his vest in tribute to his friend who had passed away, Espanyol’s Dani Jarque.

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - JULY 11: Andres Iniesta of Spain celebrates scoring his side's first goal during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Final match between Netherlands and Spain

Such gestures are typical of the man. An exemplar in all he does, he embodies all of the values that Barcelona strive to work for.

Fair play and respect sum his character up perfectly, and there could be no one more deserving to become captain of Barcelona.

As he trudged from the pitch in what was his last final, his teammates made their way toward him to embrace him. Even the match referee appeared happy to extend his gratitude.

Going up to receive the Copa Del Rey trophy alone was just the most beautiful and iconic moment, and in many respects it was the perfect bookend to a stellar career.

It would be entirely wrong to have that career largely defined by his World Cup winner and his glorious ‘Iniestazo’ in the last seconds against Chelsea in 2009 however.

That’s because he’s been as important to the club as Lionel Messi, with far too many highlights to list here.

A magician with the ball, perhaps Pep Guardiola summed him up best when he told Xavi some years back ‘you’ll retire me, but he will retire all of us.’

Goodbye, Don Andres Iniesta and thank you.

Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona hugs his team mate Andres Iniesta of FC Barcelona after Iniesta scored

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