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Manchester City could reportedly emerge as a shock destination for Barcelona midfielder Andres Iniesta, amid rumours the midfielder is headed for China in the summer.
According to Javier G. Matallanas of Madrid-based newspaper AS, City manager Pep Guardiola―who previously worked with Iniesta in Catalonia―could swoop in for the 33-year-old, who showed he’s still a top midfielder with a starring performance in the Copa del Rey win over Sevilla.
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The report also mentioned Arsenal as potential suitors―but immediately talked down the odds of such a move happening―and stated the City option is why there has been a delay in announcing Iniesta’s move to China.
Gong Daxing, president of Chinese Super League club Chongqing Dangdai Lifan, previously dropped strong hints the Spain international is set to sign for his club, via Sport.
An exit seems almost certain, per Sid Lowe of the Guardian:
Guardian sport @guardian_sport
Andrés Iniesta begins glorious goodbye as an era draws to a close. By @sidlowe https://t.co/7WXTCOs0EM
Iniesta came up through the Barcelona academy and became a regular starter for the club in 2005. He has won La Liga eight times with the Blaugrana―and will likely add a ninth this season―and added four UEFA Champions League trophies.
Per the ESPN FC panel, he can easily be described as a club icon:
ESPN FC @ESPNFC
It seems Andres Iniesta’s time at Barcelona is coming to a close. The FC crew on what he means to the club: https://t.co/71uBma2Iyl https://t.co/CWqr3cQy0H
But like Xavi before him, Iniesta seems unlikely to spend his entire career at the Camp Nou. Xavi departed for Qatar in 2015, signing with Al Sadd.
At that time, Xavi was clearly past his best, and he was a rotational piece for Barcelona. Per WhoScored.com, he made just two starts in the Champions League in his final season, as other players were trusted more on the biggest stage.
Iniesta’s situation is different: He’s arguably been Barcelona’s best midfielder this season, and he’s been a regular starter in the Champions League and La Liga, making eight starts in the former and 21 in the latter, per WhoScored.
He still has plenty of value as a fantastic all-round facilitator in the middle of the park, and City happen to be looking for such a player. Earlier this week, Spanish reporter Jose Alvarez Haya reported Napoli’s Jorginho―who has a similar profile―is close to joining:
Jose Alvarez Haya @10JoseAlvarez
Jorginho (Napoli) is in advanced negotiation with Manchester City. His agent (Joao Santos) was last week in a succesful meeting with Txiki in Manchester. The deal is close to happen. @elchiringuitotv @chirichampions
Iniesta would likely be a cheaper option, and Guardiola knows the veteran would slide into his squad without too many issues, given his extensive experience in the system.
It could be an interesting option for Iniesta, even if a move to China seems more likely at this point.