16th December 2016. By Edward Stratmann.
To get a sense of just how highly regarded Barcelona's midfield maestro, Andres Iniesta, is within the club, Neymar's comments provide a fascinating insight into what a special talent he undoubtedly is. "Iniesta can't be compared with anyone, he's different - he has elegance and class," gleamed the Brazilian.

"Iniesta is the best midfielder I've seen play football. To be a great player or to be legend, he doesn't need to win Ballon d'Or."

Whilst Iniesta was out through injury, it's hardly surprising that Barca missed him so badly then, for he's such a once in a generation type of player who adds so much dynamism, creativity and incision to Luis Enrique's team's play.

Since suffering a knee injury against Valencia at the Mestalla on October 22, the fact the Blaugrana won just three out of the eight matches they played without their talismanic captain illustrated his insurmountable importance. After enduring a six week recovery program, Iniesta was due to make his return in the highly anticipated Clasico. Indeed this delighted his teammates and the fans, but Enrique was especially excited about the prospect of the little genius' return. "The biggest news is that we're getting Iniesta back," Enrique proclaimed enthusiastically.

Former teammate and club legend, Carles Puyol, then echoed Enrique's comments by aptly noting: "We are talking about one of the best players in the world and he's very important for Barcelona's style.

"It's not just what Andres does, either, but how things move around him. I'm delighted he's back."

And although Barca ultimately didn't win, succumbing to a late equaliser from Sergio Ramos to draw 1-1, from the moment Iniesta came on in the second half as a substitute, Barca have looked massively better. An increase in tempo, slickness and precision was immediately injected into their play, almost like a switch was flicked.

A 4-0 win over Borussia Monchengladbach in the Champions League and a 3-0 victory in La Liga vs Osasuna duly followed suit. To focus on the latter fixture, though, and one could only watch in awe of Iniesta's quality.

From his left sided central midfield post, the Spanish international produced a dazzling exhibition of passing, movement and all-round class. With Osasuna defending in a compact 4-4-2 shape, Iniesta's ability to subtly move horizontally, vertically or diagonally to avoid his marker to receive possession was vital. All it took was a quick check of his surroundings and Iniesta would move into a position he knew his teammates could utilise him. Put simply, he just has this innate knowledge of where to be in relation to the ball, the space, his teammates and the opposition.

As long as he had just enough space to operate in, his colleagues never hesitated to pass to him, for they know his undeniable composure and evasive qualities. The way Iniesta contorts his body just before receiving a pass to ensure he's in an ideal position to not only protect the ball, but also to move it on quickly was truly amazing too.

Once in possession, his gifted passing skills saw him connect his team's moves tremendously well and assist greatly in ball retention. His customary damaging short dribbling bursts were also another key feature of his work. It was little wonder then that Barca funneled the majority of their attacking moves down the left and left of centre areas, in order to use the wizardry of Iniesta as often as possible.

Never rushed or panicked, Iniesta's presence just adds so much to Enrique's outfit, with this being another example of why he's such an integral part of Barcelona's team.

Even though he's now 32 and must be used more sparingly these days, there's no doubting that he's as fundamental as Lionel Messi is in terms of making this Barcelona side tick.

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