Respect more important than Ballon d'Or for departing Barca great Iniesta

The high esteem in which Andres Iniesta is held at Barcelona means he does not mind never landing the Ballon d'Or ahead of Lionel Messi.

Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta   -  Getty Images

Andres Iniesta maintains he is unconcerned over never winning the Ballon d'Or after calling time on his celebrated Barcelona career.

Iniesta announced on Friday he will leave Camp Nou at the end of this season, with Chinese Super League club Chongqing Lifan widely expected to be his next destination.

The 33-year-old is arguably the most unfortunate victim of the Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo era as far as individual awards are concerned.

He finished as runner-up to long-time Barca colleague Messi in 2010 despite scoring the winner in that year's World Cup final for Spain, while he came in third in 2012 after being named player of the tournament at a triumphant Euro 2012.

France Football, the magazine behind the prestigious gong, took the unusual step of apologising for not declaring Iniesta as a winner this week as speculation mounted over his future, but the man himself pays the award little mind.

"It's not a chip on my shoulder," he said.

"What I think is respect is more important than a Ballon d'Or. Everybody likes awards but that doesn’t change who I am."

Messi's haul of five Ballons d'Or arguably owes an ample debt to Iniesta's masterful on-field string pulling – something that has been a source of continued joy for the mercurial playmaker.

"It's always been an honour and a privilege to play with him – magical moments," said Iniesta. "He is one of a kind.

"It's been magical to have spent so much time at his side."

On how he wishes to be remembered at Barcelona, a club where he is in line to lift a 35th career trophy if Ernesto Valverde's side seal LaLiga this weekend, Iniesta added: "That's an easy one – as a great player and a great person.

"When football ends you are a person and you have to live. That's what I've tried to do, to be a great player and a great person in every way."

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