I know this story seems a little unlikely, but bear with me … and then things will get really confusing.
In case you’re unsure of who Andres Iniesta is, then I have no option but to divert you away from this site, as you are far too young. Actually, in that case, we’ll keep the foul language to a minimum, for all are welcome! To keep things basic, let’s just say that he’s, without a doubt, one of the greatest midfielders to ever play the game.
With a nimble frame, low centre of gravity and an incredible sense of vision which only a telescope would deem possible, it was a steady rise to stardom as the La Masia graduate formed an integral part of what would later become perhaps the most formidable club outfit ever formed. But way back when he was a teenager, he (like many others in that situation) was in a position where he’d have to prove to his superiors that he was worth sticking with.
For many players, a loan spell is a way to legitimise your potential. Where you can ‘prove your worth’ to your parent club and encourage them to give you the first team chance you’ve sought out with a club of ‘lesser stature’. So, this opportunity came to pass when Andres Iniesta’s representatives looked into where he could go. As it happened, they wouldn’t have to look far, as a more than worthy suitor would appear on the horizon very soon.
A team which has slowly but surely seen an upturn in their fortunes as a Scottish Premier League outfit, Rangers and their ambitious manager Alex McLeish had wised up to the talents of a teenage Iniesta upon the advice of his Dutch scouting network prior to the summer of 2004. And the stars began to align in their favour …
At the time, McLeish was looking for a midfielder to help bulk out the midriff of his side following the departure of club stalwart and fan favourite, Barry Ferguson. Seeking to move in a new direction from their typically brash and ‘tough’ look in that area of the pitch, his scouts were convinced that somebody of Andres Iniesta’s quality would suit all parties. After all, Barca wanted him to get an experience, Rangers were a top side, and they would have used him.
Just to add a bit of zing to the story, rumours have since circulated that this loan move could’ve been a double one. Apparently (and I’m not sure how authentic this story is, but it sounds good), McLeish’s son was an avid user of Football Manager (great taste, clearly) and came across this Argentinian kid who played alongside Iniesta. It didn’t go ahead for financial reasons, but could’ve been a funny link up. What was his name again? Lionel … something.
Unfortunately for Rangers fans all over … Scotland, the move didn’t happen. McLeish himself states: “Jan Wouters phoned Henk ten Cate, who was Rijkaard’s assistant at Barcelona. Jan asked if there was anybody we could get and was told about a young kid called Andres Iniesta. He was only 18 at the time. We asked if we could bring him to Scotland and were told that they would try and make some hay at Barcelona and get him over to us.”
Since their attempt, this non-move has gone down in Rangers folklore with a slight tinge of bitterness. With many commentators converging on the theory that the move was destined to never happen at all. On paper, it might have made sense, but in reality, it was an elaborate PR stunt to bring Andres Iniesta to the attention of the Blaugrana hierarchy. I mean, it worked for him, so I doubt he’s really given it much thought since. Rangers, though … yikes!