‘Andrés Iniesta: The Unexpected Hero’ review: A deep dive into the man behind the genius

The documentary is a compelling watch and allows one to discover the man behind the genius that is Iniesta, one of the most decorated footballers in history

“It’s a disgrace!” Those words from Didier Drogba post the infamous Stamford Bridge game in 2009 is likely what remains etched in the minds of neutrals. Drogba was livid after Chelsea’s loss to FC Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League semi-final, a competition the latter went on to win that year.

Sure, the referee made a few contentious calls, but nobody at the Bridge was contending the quality of the match-winning goal: the one that came off the boot of Andrés Iniesta; the shot that missed the grasp of a helpless Petr Čech — by a few millimetres in fact — something the Czech goalie points out in the documentary Andrés Iniesta: The Unexpected Hero.

Featuring glowing tributes from friends, family, teammates, coaches, managers and rivals, the documentary is a deep dive into the man behind the genius of Iniesta, one of Spain’s most decorated futbolista. Shot before the outbreak of COVID-19, the documentary begins at Iniesta’s current home, Japan, where he plays for and captains the J1 League side, Vissel Kobe. We learn that behind the calm demeanour the man is known for on the pitch, he is an even more reticent character off it.

The filmmakers follow Iniesta, his wife and their four little children as they discuss their fondness for the quiet life they are now accustomed to in Japan. It is the curse of a celebrity status; even going for a walk in the park seems a privilege that is out of reach. We also get a glimpse of Iniesta sharing life with David Villa, his former Barca teammate who retired from football in January 2020 as a Vissel Kobe player.

The Spanish-language film runs for 86 minutes with cameos featuring former Barca teammates Lionel Messi, Luis Suárez and Ivan Rakitić among others besides Juventus icon Gianluigi Buffon. While the film is a slow burner, adopting a patient approach to unravel a few of the chosen moments of Iniesta’s life, it also features several poignant bits.

Andres Iniesta of FC Barcelona celebrates scoring with his teammates Lionel Messi and Xavi Hernandez

Andres Iniesta of FC Barcelona celebrates scoring with his teammates Lionel Messi and Xavi Hernandez  
| Photo Credit: Jasper Juinen

One such is Iniesta’s battle with depression at the height of success. On the back of a historical treble-winning campaign of 2009 for FC Barcelona (which included the aforementioned game against Chelsea), Iniesta, as we later came to know, suffered from anxiety and depression.

It was an intensely personal battle that Iniesta fought — alone, at the time, as we discover the man opted to keep it from his teammates, although Pep Guardiola, his manager at the time, knew. We are told injuries and a personal setback he suffered — the sudden death of friend and fellow footballer Daniel Jarque — was the trigger. Iniesta battled depression for the better part of three years, all while going on to do the unthinkable for Spain: scoring the only goal in the 2010 World Cup final against the Netherlands.

Another poignant moment comes from Anna Ortiz, Iniesta’s wife, after the couple lost a child several months into pregnancy. Whilst offering support and encouragement, Iniesta pens a letter for his wife: something she lets the world in on during the course of this documentary. The words are beautiful, dripping with love and affection for the woman he swore his life to; it offers a glimpse into the man that Iniesta is: as elegant as a heartbeat — which, coincidentally, are two words that describe Andrés Iniesta’s contribution on the pitch.

Andrés Iniesta: The Unexpected Hero is streaming on Discovery Plus


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