Iniesta turned down offer from Messi's Inter Miami to join Emirates Club

The Spanish World Cup hero will be officially unveiled in Ras Al Khaimah on Wednesday


Leslie Wilson Jr

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Andrés Iniesta celebrates with the trophy after his goal helped Spain beat the Netherlands in the 2010 World Cup final. — AFP file
Andrés Iniesta celebrates with the trophy after his goal helped Spain beat the Netherlands in the 2010 World Cup final. — AFP file

Published: Tue 8 Aug 2023, 9:52 PM

Last updated: Tue 8 Aug 2023, 9:53 PM

In a major boost to the UAE football, legendary Spanish footballer Andres Iniesta has turned down an offer from Inter Miami to join Pro League side Emirates Club.

The World Cup legend arrived in Dubai on Monday to sign a one-year deal with the Ras Al Khaimah club, the 2009-2010 President’s Cup champions.

The veteran playmaker will be officially unveiled in Ras Al Khaimah on Wednesday.

Unconfirmed sources say Iniesta could earn around 8 million euros for one season.

The 39-year-old also has the option of extending his contract to 2025.

Iniesta’s most recent club contract with Japanese J1 League outfit Vissel Kobe was worth 6 million euros per season.

Arriving in the UAE on Monday, Iniesta was greeted by Emirates Club officials and garlanded with a UAE National Day scarf.

He was accompanied by Anna Ortiz, his wife of 12 years, and their four children.

After the end of his five-year Japanese stint in July, the former Barcelona star reportedly received offers to join old teammate Lionel Messi at Inter Miami.

He also had offers from Saudi Arabia. But Iniesta turned his attention to the UAE to join the Ras Al Khaimah club.

Iniesta played club football in Europe for 22 years during which period he was a mainstay of the Barcelona teams that captured historic trebles in 2009 and 2015.

Spanish icon

Such was the adulation for Iniesta that he regularly received standing ovations from rival fans in La Liga matches as a mark of respect for his match-winning goal for Spain in the 2010 World Cup final against the Netherlands.

Remarkably, it was Pep Guardiola, the Manchester City coach, who first saw the spark in a young Iniesta when he got into the senior Barcelona team.

Guardiola was the Barcelona club captain when Iniesta started training with the first team.

Having seen Iniesta's sublime skills, Guardiola famously told Xavi: "This lad (Iniesta) is going to retire us all."

A few years later in 2008, Guardiola returned to Barcelona as head coach and he went on to build a team around Messi, Xavi and Iniesta.

That Barcelona team redefined attacking football with their majestic passing game as Barcelona dominated European football for the next four years.

At international level, Iniesta was a key member of the Spain team that became the first side in history to win three back-to-back major trophies — 2008 Euro, 2010 World Cup and 2012 Euro.

Iniesta would go on to earn the nickname, the ‘magician’, for his extraordinary skills.

Not just his brilliance as a playmaker, Iniesta also remained one of the most admired footballers for his impeccable conduct on and off the field.

“Iniesta is the boyfriend that every mother wants her daughter to have," Sergio Ramos, the Real Madrid legend, once said of his former Spain teammate.

"The figures over his career tell you all you need to know. He is a magical player. There are few players in the world that can compare to him.”

Great expectations

At 39, Iniesta is no longer the player he once was. But he can still produce moments of magic that can help his new team, Emirates Club, end their trophy drought.

The club, which was established in 1969 following a merger of three local football teams - Al Ittihad, Al Ahly and Al Shaab — have not won a major trophy since 2010.

Iniesta’s inclusion in their ranks is expected to help them turn the corner.

The Spanish great’s arrival in the UAE is creating quite a stir in football circles that have already been aroused by Saudi Arabia’s incredible football investments that have seen players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, N'Golo Kante, Sadio Mane and Riyad Mahrez trade Europe for the middle east region.

The UAE is also no stranger to big-name players as well.

George Weah, AC Milan legend and former Ballon d'Or winner, Abedi Pele, former Uefa Champions League winner with Marseille, and Iranian legends Ali Daei and Ali Karimi, have all graced the UAE club football stage.

Even Diego Maradona, as Al Wasl coach, had rekindled his old rivalry with Walter Zenga, the legendary Inter Milan and Italy goalkeeper, who was coaching Dubai club, Al Nasr in the early 2010s.


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