On Friday 5th October 2017, Barcelona midfielder and captain Andres Iniesta signed a lifelong contract, the first time ever Barcelona have offered such a contract in their 118 year history.
The 33 year old is second on Barcelona’s all-time appearances list with 639 appearances, only behind former Barcelona midfielder and legend Xavi.
Iniesta joined Barcelona’s youth academy, La Masia, at the age of 12 and has never played for another club since and in the press conference following his signing ceremony at Camp Nou, the midfielder said: “This is priceless. I love this club and I will be here until my body and mind know it is time to stop. I cannot be anywhere else other than here, I have said it many times before and I will say it again.”
Refreshing and rare
Such loyalty is very refreshing and rare in today’s football, in which footballers prioritise big paycheques and fame under the spotlight above loyalty towards clubs which have significantly elevated their careers.
Napoli captain Marek Hamsik was signed from Brescia, has been with the Italians for ten years and the late Gino Corioni, who was Brescia president when the 30-year-old was signed, had said in 2011: “Hamsik is not a top champion, but he is still irreplaceable. Players with his characteristics should not be sold.”
The characteristics being referred to by Corioni includes loyalty, and embracing the culture of your club and becoming attached to them so as to not even consider leaving.
Over the years, many top clubs have been linked with the attacking midfielder, however he has never left Napoli. Hamsik has the ability and character to arguably play in any team in the world, and in a sport where players are always judged based on statistics, perhaps loyalty should also be prioritised when judging the true greatness of a player.
Just like Roma legend Francesco Totti and Liverpool great Steven Gerrard, albeit a short stint at the end of the England legend’s career with LA Galaxy, both of whom are now unsurprisingly well-respected by many football fans all around the world, Hamsik has had the chance to move away but has decided to stay with his team.
Hamsik, Gerrard and Totti: a few modern-day examples
Hamsik may not have come through the academy ranks of his club like Totti and Gerrard, however he has also shown loyalty which is all too rare in modern day football.
Gerrard may be criticised for some by the absence of the Premier League from his trophy cabinet during his magnificent career, however this was largely due to the Englishman’s utmost loyalty towards his beloved Liverpool.
In 2004, the midfielder was strongly linked with Chelsea, but he opted against moving to Stamford Bridge. Most likely, he would have won the Premier League with the Blues, however he was another player who displayed unparalleled loyalty which should be admired in football.
True embodiment of loyalty to a single club which Iniesta is well on his way to achieving, was also shown by Totti at Roma.
The striker spent 25 seasons with the Romans, leaving behind an incredible legacy, which was blatantly appreciated by all at the Stadio Olimpico after his final game in which he helped Roma to beat Genoa 3-2 and secure automatic Champions League qualification for the group stages, receiving an emotional send-off in front of all the players, his family and all the fans who held aloft “Totti 10” cards.
Sometimes it’s more than just the medals and money
In the modern day world of football in which successful players are sometimes perceived to be respected more than the loyal players, perhaps those such as Gerrard and Totti, and those who are still playing such as Iniesta and Hamsik, should show that abandoning the club you love in order to chase medals and more money is not necessarily the way to have a successful career.
Written by Sina Latif
Follow Sina on Twitter @_sina93
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