Spain have announced they will travel to Portugal for a friendly on October 7. 

The fixture between the neighbouring countries will be staged in Lisbon ahead of both featuring in Nations League games during the October international window. 

Luis Enrique's squad are scheduled to host Switzerland on October 10 before travelling to Ukraine three days later - Germany are the other team in Group 4. 

Defending champions Portugal, meanwhile, are away to France on October 11, followed by a home game against Sweden.

Spain are also set for friendly duty against the Netherlands in November, with that meeting originally set to take place in March before the coronavirus pandemic caused major changes to the schedule.

Euro 2020 was pushed back a year due to the COVID-19 crisis, with the tournament now set for June and July in 2021.

Gianluigi Buffon told the retiring Iker Casillas "without you everything would have been less meaningful" in an emotional social-media tribute.

There has long been a mutual respect between veteran Juventus legend Buffon and Real Madrid great Casillas, who have earned reputations as two of the greatest goalkeepers of their generation.

On Tuesday, Casillas called time on his career, which started with a Madrid debut in 1999 and saw him rack up 725 appearances, five LaLiga titles and three Champions League medals before departing for Porto in 2015.

Buffon is still going strong at the age of 42, albeit he departed Juve for a season at Paris Saint-Germain before returning last year and now largely acts as understudy to Wojciech Szczesny.

While Buffon has never experienced Champions League success with Juve, both he and Casillas have won the World Cup with Italy and Spain respectively.

Buffon credits Casillas for making him a better goalkeeper.

"They say competition makes us better than others but not perfect faced with ourselves," Buffon wrote on Twitter. 

"Maybe this futile pursuit of perfection is what made us who we are. 

"#Grac1as Iker, without you, everything would have been less meaningful."

Iker Casillas "conquered the hearts of the Madridistas" and Real Madrid will always be his home, said president Florentino Perez in a glowing tribute.

Los Blancos legend Casillas officially announced his retirement on Tuesday, although he has not played since suffering a heart attack in training with Porto on May 1 last year.

Casillas rose through the youth ranks at the Santiago Bernabeu, making his first-team debut in 1999 as a teenager and going on to make 725 appearances for the club before departing in 2015.

During that time, former captain Casillas won every major honour possible with Madrid – including five LaLiga titles and the Champions League on three occasions, while he also became a two-time European Champion and a World Cup winner with Spain.

Perez said Casillas earned the respect of team-mates and rivals alike during a glittering career.

"Iker Casillas is one of the great symbols of Real Madrid. The Madridistas are especially proud of one of our eternal captains today, captain also of the Spanish national team," Perez said. 

"Today, Iker Casillas bids farewell as a professional player, having contributed to further enlarging the myth and Real Madrid legend.

"He came to our club as a boy, at just nine years old, and here he has grown up, he has formed and has become a benchmark for all football fans.

"From Real Madrid today we want to convey to you our love, our admiration, and of course, our gratitude for all that he has given us, both inside and outside the pitches. 

"And I also want to thank your wife Sara, all the support she's always given to Iker Casillas. For Sara, also, all our affection.

"Iker represents the values of Real Madrid. This club is the most beloved and admired in the world and is admired [for] players like Iker Casillas. With his commitment, with his work and with his humility he has conquered the hearts of the Madridistas, but also the respect of their rivals.

"In this club, with this shield and this jersey, he's won it all. For Real Madrid and for Madridistas from all corners of the world it has been an honour to have a goalkeeper, a captain, like Iker Casillas.

"He is a reference for children who come to our Real Madrid City with the dream to one day wear our jersey. His legacy will always be here. Iker knows that this is and will always be your home."

Iker Casillas has announced his retirement from football, calling time on a decorated career with Real Madrid, Porto and Spain.

Casillas, 39 has not played since suffering a heart attack during training with Porto on May 1 last year, for which he required surgery.

In February this year, around the time he announced a subsequently withdrawn bid for the presidency of the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), Porto president Pinto da Costa said Casillas had retired.

The player himself did not publicly confirm the move, however, and Porto head coach Sergio Conceicao was last month forced to quash rumours that Casillas was set to turn out for the club in a farewell appearance – although he did take to the field to lift the Taca de Portugal at the weekend after his team-mates beat Benfica 2-1 to complete a domestic double.

In a statement released via social media on Tuesday, Casillas confirmed he would call time on his playing days.

"The important thing is the path you travel and the people who accompany you, not the destination to which it takes you," the 2010 World Cup-winning captain tweeted.

"Because that with work and effort, I think I can say, without hesitation, that is has been the path and the dream destination."

Casillas played four seasons at Porto and has was first choice before being forced to the sidelines.

But it is his exploits for Madrid and Spain for which his career will be remembered by most.

Casillas came through Madrid's academy and established himself in the first team as a teenager, eventually going on to play 725 times for the club in all competitions, a figure bettered by only Raul (741).

He won every trophy possible with Los Blancos, including three Champions Leagues and five LaLiga titles.

Casillas also starred in the historic Spain team that won the country's first World Cup in 2010 and ended a 44-year wait for European Championship success two years earlier. They went on to win Euro 2012 as well.

Widely regarded to be among the finest goalkeepers of his generation, he was Spain's record appearance-maker with 167 caps until Sergio Ramos overtook him last year.

Madrid issued a statement of their own in response to Casillas' retirement, declaring him to be the greatest ever keeper in their rich history.

"Real Madrid C. F. wants to show its recognition, admiration and affection for one of the biggest legends of our club and of world football," the statement read. 

"The best goalkeeper in the history of Real Madrid and Spanish football joined us at the age of nine. He was formed here and defended our shirt for 25 years, becoming one of our most emblematic captains of all time.

"Iker Casillas earned the love of Madridismo and is a symbol of the values that Real Madrid represents. Today one of the most important footballers in our 118 years of history calls it a day as a professional player, a player we love and admire, a goalkeeper who has made the Real Madrid legacy bigger with his work and exemplary behaviour both on and off the pitch."

Madrid's statement added: "Iker Casillas belongs at the heart of Real Madrid and will do so forever. Real Madrid would like to convey to him and his family the love of our club, which is the club of his life."

Xavi was still in his prime playing alongside a 26-year-old Andres Iniesta, and Vicente del Bosque had figured out a goal would do.

Sergio Ramos was 24 playing right back next to a 23-year-old Gerard Pique, and neither of them had much to do.

David Villa was 28, and a 24-year-old David Silva couldn’t find a regular spot in the squad because the 2010 Spanish midfield just didn’t need him. What they did need was 745.8 touches per goal.

You could either watch it for two hours out of appreciation for the pure aesthetics of how that midfield made it look, understanding a goal was coming from space you couldn’t yet see, or you could watch it for two hours wondering how more never came.

It’s an illogical comparison between an entire team and a single striker, but it’s also an amusing one: Miroslav Klose needed 728 career touches to score 16 World Cup goals.

La Roja scored eight in South Africa, the fewest by a World Cup winner, from 5,966 touches, the most by any team in the World Cup dating to 1966, when advanced data records began. To some, they were untouchable, dominant and – time for a new word – undispossessable. To others, simply frustrating.

But they were very good. Aside from a moment in which Arjen Robben got behind the defence after a beautiful through ball from Wesley Sneijder only for Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas to get a foot on his shot, it’s hard to recall many times in the tournament when viewers thought the then and future European Champions could lose – until we’re reminded they lost their World Cup 2010 opener to Switzerland.


POSSESSION, AND THE OCCASIONAL GOAL

Spain’s goal every 82.5 minutes in 2010 ranks 184th among World Cup sides dating to 1966, is the worst rate among World Cup winners (though Argentina reached the 1990 final by scoring once every 138), and 12th among the 32 teams in 2010 just behind a United States (78.0) side that was moments from missing the knockout stage.

Pre-2010, the lowest goal total by a winner was 11 by England in 1966, but it only took six matches to win a World Cup in those days. The 1982 Italy team scored 12 in seven matches, which was the lowest per-match mark (1.71) until Spain (1.14).

A brutal final against the Netherlands which saw referee Howard Webb show 14 cards – a record for the World Cup final – couldn’t prevent them from their emblematic scoreline: 1-0.

A 23-year-old Cesc Fabregas came on in the 87th minute to give a midfield fresh legs it probably didn’t need before supplying a tournament-winning assist in extra time.

To hyperbolically state they had the ball the entire match, as we tend to do 10 years after, would be 38.4% inaccurate. Xavi completed 90 of 97 passes attempted and had 130 touches – the second-highest single-game total of the tournament. The two in their 4-2-3-1, Xabi Alonso and Sergio Busquets, combined for 166 touches. They were never dispossessed.
 

 

La Roja 2010 completed more passes in a World Cup than any team until Germany topped them by six four years later, yet overwhelming possession is always how Spain will be remembered.


Team Passes Completed in a World Cup

Team               Year     Matches          Completed      Completion %

Germany         2014    7                      3,802                           86.2

Spain               2010    7                      3,796                           86.9

Brazil               1994    7                      3,585                           85.0

England           2018    7                      3,276                           85.3

Netherlands   1998     7                      3,220                           84.5


Possession percentage may not mean much – France had the ball 48.6% of the time in 2018 – but we can’t seem to talk about this Spain side without reiterating how much they had the ball.

But other World Cup teams have had it more, and only three of the top six World Cup teams in possession percentage have managed to advance out of their groups. Spain 2010, Argentina 2010 and Netherlands 1998 are the only World Cup teams to advance out of the round of 16 with over 60% possession, so it follows La Roja are the only team to win a World Cup with over 60%.


Highest World Cup Possession Percentage

Team               Year     Matches          Possession %

Spain               2018    4                      74.1

Germany         2018    3                      71.5

Argentina        2018    4                      65.5

Colombia        1994    3                      64.7

Spain               2010    7                      64.5

Argentina        2002    3                      63.2

Argentina        2010    5                      62.3

Mexico            2002    4                      62.3

Spain               2006    4                      62.1

France             2002    3                      61.1

Netherlands   1998    7                      60.8

Spain               2014    3                      60.8


From that possession came surprisingly few chances, and with those surprisingly few chances came surprisingly poor finishing. Spain in fact had a higher xG total in just four matches.

With those eight 2010 goals came an 8.90 xG, marking the first negative xG differential by a World Cup winner. It didn’t help that they missed both penalties they were awarded.


Lowest Performance vs. xG for World Cup Winners

Team               Year     Games Goals   xG        xG +/-

Spain               2010    7          8          8.90     -0.90

Germany         2014    7          18        15.88   2.12

Germany         1974    7          13        10.17   2.83

Brazil               1994    7          11        7.53     3.47

England           1966    6          11        6.37     4.63


It wasn’t a matter of progressing the ball up the pitch or settling for inconsequential maintenance style possession at the back. Spain’s touches in the opposition box (215) rank third dating to 1966 behind the Netherlands 1974 (260) and Germany 1974 (237), but those two sides combined for 28 goals.

It was even a mediocre scoring tournament across Spain’s history. They’ve qualified for the last 11 World Cups. In that time, they’ve outscored the 2010 side four times and matched it once while never advancing past the quarter-finals or playing more than five matches.

Their 1.09 goals scored per 90 minutes in 2010 ranks ninth of those 11 Spanish sides. Their 1.21 xG per 90 in 2010 is tied for fifth among those 11, trailing even the 1998 team (1.67) that didn’t get beyond the group stage in France.

So what, then, was it that made this team look so special so frequently and, more importantly, what made it possible for them to get it together after their opening loss to Switzerland to advance to the knockout stage and beat Portugal, Paraguay, Germany and the Dutch by a combined score of 4-0?


POSSESSION AS DEFENCE

The answer may be that their possession often worked more as a method of defence than attack. We focus so often on recent Spanish teams’ ability to sustain possession or threat, and as a result what can go unnoticed is where they stood defensively.

Spain 2010 are one of 64 teams to play at least six World Cup games dating to 1966. Of that group, they’re one of four sides to concede just twice. Their 2.32 shots on goal conceded per 90 ranks sixth, their 0.27 goals against per 90 is third, while their non-penalty 0.46 xG against per 90 is eighth. France 1998 are the only other World Cup winners to concede under 2 1/2 shots, a third of a goal, and half a non-penalty expected goal per 90.

The right side of the defence (Ramos and Pique) was young, and the left side was made up of 32-year-olds Carles Puyol and Joan Capdevila. Neither side was responsible for an overwhelming amount of their non-penalty opponent xG with 1.82 coming from sequences starting on the left and 1.52 coming from the right.

Measured by shot location, 1.47 came from left, while 1.87 came from the right. Regardless, they allowed one shot from inside the six for the tournament:
 

 

Meanwhile, Casillas ranked 29th in saves per 90 for the tournament (though he stopped the only penalty he faced to preserve a 1-0 quarter-final lead against Paraguay), while Spain’s 17.3 tackles per 90 is the fifth-lowest total among all World Cup teams to play at least six matches, and their 104.2 duels per 90 is third lowest among World Cup winners.

So much of that had to do with retaining possession, which is why a player like Sergio Busquets fit so well as a holding midfielder for this team. He was and is a possession retainer, never to be confused with a ball winner behind the playmakers.

Among Spain’s possessions lost, they were dispossessed a total of 13 times in the defensive half, and twice in the defensive third – or once every 330 minutes. Spanish players were dispossessed once every 62.2 touches, which is best among World Cup winners not named Germany.

But there was also remarkable creativity. Spain 2010 attempted more through balls (60) than any World Cup team aside from Brazil in 1978 (69), and their pass completion percentage ending in the final third among teams to play at least six matches in a tournament ranks second to Brazil 1970.


Highest World Cup Pass Completion % Ending in Final Third

Team               Year     Matches          Passes in Final Third   Completion %

Brazil               1970    6                      562                                          76.6

Spain               2010    7                      890                                          74.6

Germany         2014    7                      966                                          74.6

France             1982    7                      533                                          74.4

Germany         1974    7                      797                                          74.2

(Teams with at least six matches dating to 1966.)


Now, possession itself can be boring. But players involved in it are often not boring. Iniesta, for example, was never a boring player, particularly at the previously mentioned age. There’s something interesting to say about most of these guys, but we’ll focus on a handful.


ANDRES INIESTA

Iniesta was undoubtedly the skilled midfielder in his prime that dynamised Spain’s style, but he also scored some big goals. You know, the one in the 116th minute that won them the tournament and earned him man of the match. That was important.

But he also scored another one, which in hindsight really mattered. Iniesta gave Spain a 2-0 lead in the 37th minute of Spain’s final group play match, a 2-1 win over Chile in which he was also named man of the match.

Without that goal, Chile would have won the group, and Spain would have played Brazil rather than Portugal in the round of 16, and this World Cup anniversary story might be about a different team.

Iniesta may have been the player on this team that made the detractors keep the television on. While fellow midfielders like Xavi, Busquets, Xabi Alonso looked to move the ball through team-mates, Iniesta took more chances on his own.

His 35 take-ons trailed only Messi’s 45 for the tournament, and while his 48.6 take-on completion percentage was nowhere near Messi’s 68.9, it compares favourably to the only other two players who attempted more than 30. Robben and David Villa each attempted 31 at 32.3%.

His 13 through balls played were second in the tournament only to the guy you’ll read about last on this list. His two goals more than doubled his 0.77 xG, and without him or David Villa on this list, Spain realistically wouldn’t have had the finishing to win a World Cup.


DAVID VILLA

Playing striker with this bunch couldn’t have been a dream job. With persistent possession and plenty of defensive clutter behind the ball to navigate with back to goal, there wasn’t much space for a No. 9 to do his thing. But Villa was used to it while playing at Barcelona with much of the Spanish midfield, and he managed to outperform his xG by 2.18 goals, which ranked sixth in 2010.


2010 World Cup Performance vs. xG

Player              Team               Goals   xG        xG +/-

W. Sneijder     Netherlands   5          1.28     3.72

T. Muller         Germany         5          1.28     3.72

D. Forlan         Uruguay          5          2.21     2.79

R. Vittek          Slovakia          4          1.53     2.47

G. Higuaín       Argentina        4          1.75     2.25

D. Villa            Spain               5          2.82     2.18

M. Klose          Germany         4          2.04     1.96

In 2010, he scored five of Spain’s eight goals, and that 62.5% individual share of team goals is the highest all-time for a World Cup winner. It would have been six of nine if he’d converted a rather meaningless penalty against Honduras.
 

 


SERGIO BUSQUETS

This author may have a tendency to argue Busquets has been one of football’s most fortunate midfielders given the team-mates he’s had who have hidden his lack of athleticism and allowed him to do exactly what he’s good at and nothing more. But man is he good at what he’s good at, even if it only occasionally requires a sweat.

His pass percentage in the opponent half (92.3) during the 2010 tournament went unsurpassed by non-defenders until 2018 when three players did it. It’s now been bettered by Axel Witsel (93.2), Toni Kroos (93.4) and – yes – Sergio Busquets (93.9).

Additionally, he made a team-high 27 interceptions and had a 61.3% tackle rate, which considering his lack of range are sneaky numbers to anyone used to watching him at 31 rather than 21. In fact, his 3.9 interceptions per 90 were fourth among all central, attacking or holding midfielders to reach the knockout phase. These are numbers we typically expect of a holding midfielder, but not necessarily one of Busquets’ variety.

Busquets was dispossessed three times in 631 minutes in 2010, which at least in part explains that Del Bosque quote you may have come across when googling his age for this story: "If you watch the whole game, you won’t see Busquets. But watch Busquets, and you will see the whole game."

That’s what he’s good at, but he wouldn’t have been as good at it if he’d had to worry about Xavi losing the ball up in front of him.


XAVI

Saving the best for last, Xavi assisted the 73rd-minute semi-final winner against Germany – a match in which he created seven chances to Germany’s three while completing 105 of his 113 passes.

His 30 chances created were a tournament best regardless of whether you measure it by total or per 90, and he created 10 more than next-best Mesut Ozil. Xavi accounted for 20 of Spain’s through balls, also a tournament best ahead of Ozil’s 17.

And then there’s everything about Xavi that made Spain Spain at their peak.

There have been 18 players to complete at least 400 passes in a single World Cup. Xavi completed 599 in 2010, which is the most ever, and it came with a 91.2% success rate, which trails only Busquets in 2010 (92.1) and Isco in 2018 (91.4) among non-defenders in that 400-plus group.

His 84.2% passing accuracy ending in the final third is unmatched among all players in that group. And for anyone clinging exclusively to this midfield being great at looking good while struggling to do much with it, Xavi was a part of a tournament-best 65 sequences ending in a shot. At a per-90 rate, his 9.2 trailed only Argentina's Lionel Messi and Brazil’s Dani Alves and Felipe Melo.

Spain managed 17.2 such sequences per match, and for the sake of comparison, Busquets (4.1) and Iniesta (6.1) barely add up to more sequences ending in shots per 90 than Xavi.

He wasn’t just a key part of sequences leading to attempts on goal. He was also reliable with the ball while repeatedly receiving it in advanced and contested positions, which was absolutely key for Spain sustaining threat and limiting counters.

His 568 passes received in 2010 are the most by a player in a single World Cup. Now, that doesn’t mean much if he’s constantly receiving the ball in harmless positions. But Xavi was one of six players in the tournament with an average sequence starting location at least 52 metres from goal, yet he was dispossessed 14 times.

That works out to 40.6 passes received per dispossession. The other five – Messi, Sneijder, Landon Donovan, Diego Forlan and Simone Pepe – had a combined average of less than half that (19.9).

That’s Spain 2010. For lack of a real word, undispossessable. Attack, defence and – yes – frustration rolled into one.

And it probably frustrated opponents far more than any neutral fans. Miroslav Klose happened to play 90 minutes against Spain in the 2010 semi-final. He of course didn’t score, and the 23 touches he had were his fewest ever on a per-90 level in a World Cup match.

This story was originally published by Stats Perform. For more like this, sign up for The Analyst newsletter at statsperform.com/resources

Real Madrid have been champions of Europe 13 times and their first title came in dramatic fashion in Paris on this day 64 years ago.

Back in 1948, meanwhile, the New York Yankees welcomed Babe Ruth for one last time to the stadium where he wrote large chapters of baseball folklore.

Cricket's Twenty20 format initially upset many purists but has become a money-spinning, highly successful element of the sport since it was introduced in June 2003.

More recently, Spain's 2018 World Cup plans were left in tatters, with Real Madrid at the centre of another major sporting story.

 

1948 - Babe Ruth's last goodbye to Yankee Stadium

For the 25th anniversary celebration of Yankee Stadium's opening, there was a guest more special than all the rest.

The legendary Ruth was in the house, but it was clear for all to see that he was seriously unwell.

It was already known as 'The House That Ruth Built', and as Ruth stood with a baseball bat instead of a cane, it would be his last visit to his old stamping ground.

This was the day his number three shirt was retired. Stricken by cancer, and a shadow of his once powerful self, Ruth would die aged 53 on August 16 of the same year.

 

1956 - Real Madrid launch a dynasty

The first of 13 European Cup and Champions League triumphs for Real Madrid came at the Parc des Princes on this day.

Having beaten Milan 5-4 on aggregate in their semi-final, they faced a Reims side who had overcome Scottish outfit Hibernian to earn a rather short trip to Paris.

The French side surged two goals ahead in 10 minutes, before Alfredo di Stefano cut the deficit.

A dramatic match saw Reims 3-2 ahead with 25 minutes to play, but Madrid ran out 4-3 winners, Hector Rial's second goal of the game in the 79th minute proving to be the winner. Madrid won the tournament each year from 1956 to 1960, beating Reims again in the 1959 final.

 

1976 - Barker shows her bite

Sue Barker is better known to television audiences as a tennis presenter, often tasked with conducting on-court interviews with newly-crowned Wimbledon champions, and her grand slam success is regularly overlooked.

The greatest day of her playing career came on this day at Roland Garros, when Barker won the French Open with a 6-2 0-6 6-2 victory over Czech opponent Renata Tomanova.

The field had been weakened that year by the absence of defending champion Chris Evert, who elected to skip the tournament. Barker was the top seed, and capitalised.

 

2003 - Cricket takes the fast track

The England and Wales Cricket Board pioneered Twenty20 cricket, with the vision that it would draw a younger audience to the sport, and the short format made its debut on June 13, 2003.

The Twenty20 Cup launched with five matches in a day, with Warwickshire the highest-scoring side, piling up 188-7 at Taunton in a 19-run win over home side Somerset.

Warwickshire's Trevor Penney got into the spirit of the competition with a rapid 52 from 28 balls, clubbing four fours and three sixes.

2018 - Spain sack Lopetegui on World Cup eve

A day before the World Cup began in Russia, Spain's camp collapsed into chaos with the sacking of coach Julen Lopetegui.

The Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) was furious after Real Madrid revealed Lopetegui would become their next boss, an announcement that was said to have been conveyed to them just five minutes before the rest of the world knew.

It was the first the RFEF knew of any negotiations, and they swiftly ditched the man who was preparing to lead the country's bid for glory. Fernando Hierro took over, and Spain were eliminated on penalties by Russia in the first knockout round.

Lopetegui failed at Madrid but is back in business with Sevilla.

Spain head coach Luis Enrique has described playing matches behind closed doors as being "sadder than dancing with your own sister".

Elite football games are likely to be staged without fans present for the foreseeable future as part of measures to reduce the risk of spreading coronavirus.

The Bundesliga was the first of Europe's top-five leagues to resume its season last week, with all games held in empty grounds.

LaLiga is expected to follow suit if the competition gets the go-ahead to get back underway next month, and although Luis Enrique is eager for football to return, he admits it will not be the same experience without a crowd.

"It's sadder than dancing with your own sister," he said on YouTube channel Colgados del aro. 

"I saw some games from Germany over the weekend and it's a sad sight. You can hear everything and the intimacy of the better moments is lost.

"We have to remember, I guess that this is big business and I understand that with football back, it may serve as a way of helping people in dealing with confinement. Watching football and basketball in these circumstances is certainly odd.

"I would have been keen to get back to playing as soon as possible and would have had no fear. On a personal level, I'm not worried about the virus but aware that there could be an impact on older people and those susceptible to greater suffering. As a coach, I'm as equally anxious for football to return."

Luis Enrique hopes Spain can play some friendly games in September to help international football get back underway, with Euro 2020 having been postponed until next year.

"This new situation with everything shrouded in doubt is something we'll have to deal with," said the former Barcelona boss. "We're waiting for football to return and later down the line, plan a few friendly games.

"In principle, the Spanish national side should have a few games in September, but only when it's safe to stage these. At present there are other more important matters afoot, so we just need to be patient."

Andrés Iniesta came through La Masia, the Barcelona youth academy, after an early emigration from his birthplace, and impressed from an early age. He made his first-team debut aged 18 in 2002. He began playing regularly during the 2004–05 season and has remained in the team ever since. Iniesta was an integral part of the Barcelona sides that won two historic trebles in 2009 and 2015, and his 33 trophies make him the most decorated Spanish footballer of all time.

 

Playing Career

Full name: Andrés Iniesta Luján

Date of birth: 11 May 1984 (age 35)

Place of birth: Fuentealbilla, Spain

Height: 1.70 m (5 ft 7 in)

National Team:

  • 2006–2018 Spain  131 (13)

Honours

  • FIFA World Cup: 2010
  • UEFA European Championship: 2008, 2012
  • UEFA European Under-19 Championship: 2002
  • UEFA European Under-16 Championship: 2001
  • FIFA World Cup Dream Team: 2010

 

FIFA World Cup appearances: 4

  • Round of 16 - 2006 Germany
  • Winner - 2010 South Africa
  • First Round 2014 - Brazil
  • Round of 16 - 2018 Russia

 

Club Career

  • 2001–2003 Barcelona B 54   (5)
  • 2002–2018 Barcelona    442 (35)
  • 2018–   Vissel Kobe  38   (9)

 

Honours

  • Barcelona - La Liga: 2004–05, 2005–06, 2008–09, 2009–10, 2010–11, 2012–13, 2014–15, 2015–16, 2017–18; Copa del Rey: 2008–09, 2011–12, 2014–15, 2015–16, 2016–17, 2017–18; Supercopa de España: 2005, 2006, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2016; UEFA Champions League: 2005–06, 2008–09, 2010–11, 2014–15; UEFA Super Cup: 2009, 2011, 2015; FIFA Club World Cup: 2009, 2011, 2015

Inter head coach Antonio Conte would not last a full season as Real Madrid boss, according to Atletico Madrid's Diego Costa.

Conte and Costa worked together at Premier League giants Chelsea before the latter left Stamford Bridge for Atletico following a row with the Italian coach at the end of 2016-17.

Costa was followed out of Chelsea by Conte 12 months later – the former Juventus coach joining Inter at the start of 2019-20 after a year away from football.

Asked about Conte, striker Costa told ESPN Brasil: "We [Conte and I] had problems off the pitch, but I think he is a really good manager.

"I have no hard feelings towards Conte. But to be a top, top manager, he needs to change the human side of his management. He is very suspicious. At a like, say, Real Madrid, he would never last a season."

Costa was born in Brazil and made two appearances for the Selecao before opting to represent Spain in 2013.

The 31-year-old has since earned 24 caps for Spain, representing La Roja at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

"After the friendly against Russia, he [former Brazil head coach Luiz Felipe Scolari] said he would call me up again because I hadn't played many minutes," Costa said as he reflected on his decision to switch countries. "I think it was just to get in my head.

"I remember several forwards were injured but Scolari would not select me. I stayed quiet, but wasn't selected for the Confederations Cup. The possibility of Spain emerged and I accepted.

"How could I say no? Suddenly, they started saying Scolari wanted me. Well, he never called me once. How could it be that he wanted me? I then saw it written that I had ruined the dreams of millions of Brazilians.

"Why not say that he didn't look for me? Then it's simple."

Barcelona have been warned against pandering to their players' apparent desire to see Neymar return to the club, with former Spain and Real Madrid boss Vicente del Bosque adamant he does not set a "good example".

Neymar spent four years at Camp Nou until 2017, when he left for Paris Saint-Germain as the most expensive player of all time in a €222million move.

While the Brazilian has undoubtedly caught the eye in Paris, scoring 47 goals and setting up another 26 in just 52 Ligue 1 matches, rarely has he appeared happy.

A return to Spain with Barca or Real Madrid has often been mooted, though reports linking him with his former club have been significantly more prominent in the past year.

Del Bosque, a Madrid icon and World Cup-winning coach with Spain, thinks he is a problem and cautioned the Barca hierarchy against caving into the supposed demands of players who reportedly want Neymar back in Catalonia.

"It is the clubs that must decide who to sign and who not to sign," Del Bosque told Mundo Deportivo.

"You should not pay attention to what the players say, for that there are sports directors and technical secretaries. It is very difficult for a footballer to speak ill of another footballer who has been his team-mate. I don't remember almost anyone who has.

"[Neymar] is a difficult boy. For me he is not a good example, and for the record, for me he is great as a player.

"If you ask me to tell you the top five in the world, he is safely on my list, but on the pitch he tries to cheat, he simulates a lot. And also, how did he leave Barcelona?"

Spain boss Luis Enrique revealed Andres Iniesta was the closest talent to Lionel Messi he has coached.

A record six-time Ballon d'Or winner, Messi is widely regarded as one of the best players of all-time.

Luis Enrique coached Messi and Iniesta at Barcelona, where he was at the helm from 2014-17.

In a Q&A on the Spain national team's Facebook page, Luis Enrique talked up both Iniesta, now playing for Vissel Kobe, and Messi.

"The player that impressed me most in my career, I don't know if you mean being myself as a player or as a coach or both, without doubt is Leo Messi," he said.

"Afterwards, I can say that Andres Iniesta is close to something similar to Leo Messi.

"But Messi is hugely different in respect to the others."

As elite football around the world is placed on hold due to the coronavirus outbreak, FIFA has stepped up to try and fill the void by delving into its World Cup archive.

Using its official YouTube channel, a number of famous World Cup encounters will be replayed in full for the enjoyment of the football-starved faithful.

Saturday's offering was the unforgettable group stage encounter between Spain and Netherlands at Brazil 2014, where the reigning world and European champions were obliterated 5-1 as Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben turned on the style.

We decided to take a trip down memory lane and watch along.

REPEAT OR REVENGE?

Netherlands were granted a swift World Cup reunion with Spain, opening their 2014 campaign against the nation who inflicted extra-time heartache upon them in the 2010 final.

Andres Iniesta's winning goal in Johannesburg stood as the high-watermark of a glorious era – that ultimate triumph flanked by successes at Euro 2008 and Euro 2012.

Vicente del Bosque's team entered Salvador's Fonte Nova Arena having made a strong case for being the greatest international team in history, with few giving Netherlands – under a Manchester United-bound Louis van Gaal much of a chance.

SPAIN'S ILLUSION OF CONTROL

When the reputations of historically significant teams and players are so entrenched, the mind can play tricks.

A sketchy recollection of this match suggested Spain being ahead, in control and toying with their prey until Van Persie's astonishing goal for the ages. Sure, Iniesta, David Silva, Xavi and the rest certainly had their moments, but in hindsight some of the writing was on the wall.

Van Gaal strung his men out in a 3-4-3, with the defensive and midfield blocks operating conservatively but far enough away from goal to prevent Spain's assortment of magicians from entering those pockets of space in the final third where they can do so much damage.

The Dutch also sought to stretch the pitch against a team craving command of central areas. It was a ploy that paid off and also pointed the way for how Antonio Conte's Italy would end Spain's European reign in Paris two years later.

Robben was frustrated by the offside flag a couple of times in the first half but was clearly intent on damaging a Spain backline that could not match him for pace, while Wesley Sneijder drew an excellent early save from Iker Casillas.

Still, Xabi Alonso put Spain ahead from the penalty spot and Jasper Cillessen just managed to keep out a Silva chip – on the end of an Iniesta throughball you'd ideally woo, take to dinner and settle down with  - proved the game's sliding doors moment.

OHHHH, ROBIN VAN PERSIE

If, in that metaphor, Cillessen kept the sliding doors open, Van Persie launched a gleeful swallow dive through them moments later to sensationally equalise.

The Netherlands' leveller is still a goal that looks a little disorientating. Daley Blind's assist came from barely inside the Spain half on the left flank.

The pass was raking but overhit, not that it dissuaded the hero of the hour. Van Persie, back arched, propelled himself towards the ball and somehow managed a stunned contact. Instead of flying 20 rows back into the stand, the ball gently arced over a helpless Casillas.

From that moment and throughout the Oranje's run to the semi-finals, the imaginations of Manchester United fans were collectively fired. Van Gaal and Van Persie together week in, week out. Oh my, the possibilities…

As it happened, Van Persie had signed for Fenerbahce 13 months later as Van Gaal stoically withstood Old Trafford's pleas to "Attack! Attack! Attack!".

ARJEN BEING SERIOUS?

It truly is hard to square the torpor of Van Gaal's United reign with this visceral dismantling of a beleaguered Spain.

If the first half belonged to Van Persie for his moment of ingenuity, the second was all about Robben's high-octane masterclass.

There were shades of Dennis Bergkamp when he took down a more measured Blind pass with the outside of his left boot, checked inside Gerard Pique with his right and slammed past Casillas to give the Netherlands the lead.

With number five, the Bayern Munich winger brought the house down. Sneijder steered a pass from deep in Dutch territory into his direction and it was a case of run Robben, run as the crowd roared, baying for more blood.

After charging beyond the Spain defence, Robben sat Casillas down and then delayed his shot – seemingly for the satisfaction of making the goalkeeping great scramble around on the floor a little more.

Recalling Robben at the peak of his powers is a reminder of how he is one of a small group of players who must sometimes rue existing at the same time as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. At his best he was one of the very, very best.

LOCALS GUFFAW AT COSTA STRUGGLES

Glorious as Spain's whirring, frictionless football was to behold at times, they were a side who sometimes lacked cutting edge. Fernando Torres' powers had waned and they started all of the knockout games at Euro 2012 without a recognised striker.

Diego Costa's muscular forward play inspired Atletico Madrid to a phenomenal 2013-14 LaLiga success and his decision to switch allegiance to Spain from his native Brazil appeared to solve something approaching a problem.

Not that the locals saw it this way, as Costa's every contribution against the Netherlands received howling boos, including his easy tumble over Stefan de Vrij to win the penalty Alonso dispatched.

That was as good as it got for a man still struggling for fitness after limping out of Atleti's Champions League final loss to Real Madrid. One early attempt to capitalise on a Silva pass had an air of Frankenstein's monster.

For those playing retrospective Diego Costa Bingo, he was fortunate the officials missed an attempted headbutt on Bruno Martins Indi before making way to mass mirth. A stop-start international career that stands at 24 appearances and 10 goals has never fully shaken this humiliation.

EVERYONE REMEMBERS THE SPANISH CAPITULATION

No dynasty, even one built upon majestic deeds, can survive an ordeal such as that wrought by Robben, Van Persie and the rest.

Casillas found himself caught out under the ball when De Vrij bundled in Sneijder's free-kick for the Dutch's third and another error presented Van Persie, who also rattled the crossbar, with his second.

A personal recovery from Spain's all-time record appearance-maker prevented further punishments, with a stupendous double save thwarting substitute Georginio Wijnaldum and Robben on the volley as the game ended in waves of Dutch attacks and oles from their supporters.

Del Bosque's man staggered punch into another evisceration at the hands of Marcelo Bielsa's Chile and their World Cup defence was over in two matches.

Alonso, Xavi and David Villa all bade farewell to international football after the tournament. The latter briefly returned, while Spain have shed Casillas, Pique, Silva, Iniesta and other members of their golden generation since.

Limp exits at Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup suggest scars of Salvador are yet to leave their collective consciousness.

Sergio Reguilon left his Real Madrid future in doubt by indicating that he may seek to extend his loan at Sevilla, saying he feels "very loved" at Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan.

The 23-year-old left-back joined Julen Lopetegui's side in July 2019 on loan to the end of the season but Sevilla do not have the option to purchase Reguilon as part of the deal.

After enjoying an impressive run of form shortly before LaLiga was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, Reguilon said he is happy in Andalusia.

"I have no complaints about anything, about the city, the club, my colleagues," the Spain international told Muchodeporte.

"I feel very loved. Who knows what will happen in the future."

Reguilon made 14 LaLiga appearances for Madrid in 2018-19, providing cover for Marcelo when Los Blancos' regular left-back was injured.

He has found first-team football easier to come by at Sevilla, making 22 league appearances and scoring once, and he said he hopes to help Lopetegui's third-placed side challenge for a Champions League place when play is allowed to resume.

"I started well," said Reguilon, reflecting on his season at Sevilla. "When you start high they always demand that level, logically.

"All players have good and bad moments. I went through games of not being successful, but in the last three games I made a mental note of saying 'damn, you're good'.

"It is important to enter the Champions League, but for us the objective that we set ourselves is to enter Europe. If we enter the Champions League, great. Sevilla must aspire to that competition. We have the quality and ability to get in there perfectly."

PSV teenager Mohamed Ihattaren has received his first Netherlands senior call-up as part of Ronald Koeman's provisional squad for the scheduled friendlies against the United States and Spain later this month.

Ihattaren, 18, has enjoyed a breakout season in the Eredivisie this term.

Although he has represented the Dutch international side at every age group from Under-15 upwards, he is also eligible to represent Morocco.

Uncapped duo Teun Koopmeiners and Owen Wijndal have also been selected, taking the AZ contingent in Koeman's 30-man party up to five.

Defenders Matthijs de Ligt, Stefan de Vrij and Hans Hateboer, midfielder Marten de Roon and forward Justin Kluivert all feature despite playing their club football in Italy, a country which has recently introduced lockdown measures in an attempt to curtail the spread of coronavirus.

Feyenoord midfielder Leroy Fer is back in the international reckoning for the first time since 2014.

Provisional Netherlands squad to face the United States and Spain:

Jasper Cillessen (Valencia), Jeroen Zoet (FC Utrecht), Tim Krul (Norwich City), Marco Bizot (AZ); Patrick van Aanholt (Crystal Palace), Nathan Ake (Bournemouth), Daley Blind (Ajax), Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool), Denzel Dumfries (PSV), Hans Hateboer (Atalanta), Matthijs de Ligt (Juventus), Stefan de Vrij (Internazionale), Owen Wijndal (AZ); Donny van de Beek (Ajax), Leroy Fer (Feyenoord), Mohamed Ihattaren (PSV), Frenkie de Jong (Barcelona), Teun Koopmeiners (AZ), Davy Propper (Brighton & Hove Albion), Marten de Roon (Atalanta), Kevin Strootman (Olympique Marseille), Georginio Wijnaldum (Liverpool); Ryan Babel (Ajax), Steven Berghuis (Feyenoord), Myron Boadu (AZ), Luuk de Jong (Sevilla), Justin Kluivert (AS Roma), Quincy Promes (Ajax), Calvin Stengs (AZ) and Wout Weghorst (Wolfsburg).

UEFA has not received a single request to postpone Euro 2020 amid concerns about coronavirus, despite claims to the contrary.

COVID-19 is starting to cause widespread disruption to sport across Europe, particularly in Italy, Germany, France and Spain.

Italy is the most-affected European nation, with 9,172 cases of infection reported as of Tuesday, and that has led to all sporting activities being postponed until April 3.

In Spain, fans have been prohibited from attending games at all levels over the next two matchdays, though that could change after the Spanish Footballers' Association (AFE) requested all action be postponed instead.

Euro 2020, which will be played across 12 European nations, is set to begin in Rome on June 12 – though reports on Tuesday suggested some federations have asked for the tournament be delayed until 2021.

UEFA insists no such requests have been received, however.

A spokesperson told Stats Perform: "We did not receive a single request from national associations to postpone the tournament."

Along with Italy, Euro 2020 is scheduled to be hosted in Azerbaijan, Denmark, England, Germany, Hungary, Netherlands, Republic of Ireland, Romania, Russia, Scotland and Spain.

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