By 90Min
April 26, 2018

Barcelona captain and living legend Andres Iniesta has won it all at Camp Nou, but his career could easily have been so different after it was reported that he was close to quitting the club in favour of a potential move to Real Betis back in 2004.

Iniesta, who lifted the Copa del Rey trophy at the weekend and will finish the season by doing the same in La Liga, joined Barça as a 12-year-old from home province side Albacete.

After rising through the youth ranks, he was handed a senior debut by then manager Louis van Gaal during the 2002/03 season, ultimately playing nine times in all competitions that campaign.

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Iniesta then played 17 first team games in 2003/04, starting only five times in La Liga, and was faced with a tough decision at the age of 20 that summer.

The youngster, who had seriously impressed a veteran Pep Guardiola several years earlier, already had Xavi ahead of him and was also competing with more established La Masia graduates Gerard and Gabri. The club then brought in Deco, Edmilson and Ludovic Giuly.

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According to Mundo Deportivo (MD), the need for Iniesta to play more alerted ex-Barça boss and then Real Betis coach Llorenç Serra Ferrer, who spoke to Camp Nou sporting director Txiki Begiristain and the player's father over taking him to the Seville club.

Serra Ferrer had been in charge of Barça during the 2000/01 season and had seen a 16-year-old Iniesta training with the first team. That had clearly stuck in his memory.

(You may also be interested in 'Local Heroes: 14 Home Grown Players Who Led Their Clubs as Captain')

MD explains that Iniesta was actually 'close' to leaving Camp Nou and joining Betis. But, ultimately, he opted to stay.

Despite the increase in competition, Iniesta played 37 of Barça's 38 La Liga games during the 2004/05 season more than any other player, albeit mostly as a substitute. He continued to be involved in a similar vein in 2005/06, before emerging as a more regular starter in 2006/07.

By the time Pep Guardiola was handed the reins in 2008, Iniesta was well on his way to establishing himself as one of the very best players in the world. But had he chosen Betis just a few short years earlier, who knows how his career would have panned out in the end.

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