FC Barcelona's Andres Iniesta of Spain holds his Best Player UEFA 2012 Award after being awarded during the draw ceremony for the 2012/2013 Champions League Cup soccer competition at Monaco's Grimaldi Forum in Monte Carlo. (Photo : REUTERS/Eric Gaillard )
When you talk about the world's current greatest soccer players, there's two names that dominate every discussion: Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. You might be surprised to find out, however, that UEFA named Andres Iniesta the best player in Europe at an awards ceremony in Monaco.Iniesta finished with 19 votes.
Messi and Ronaldo were the runners up, with 17 votes apiece.
The UEFA's best player in Europe award is voted on by 53 sports journalists from countries part of UEFA.
"Without my teammates at the Spanish national team and Barcelona I wouldn't have won this individual trophy," Iniesta remarked. "I feel very privileged to be part of this generation of Spanish footballers."
There's no doubt that Iniesta is nowhere near as popular worldwide as Messi or Ronaldo. He doesn't capture imaginations the way Messi's footwork or Ronaldo's shots on goal do - what he does do best is help his team win.
Iniesta plays central midfielder for FC Barcelona in the Spanish La Liga and on the Spanish national team. While Barcelona lost out to Madrid for the La Liga title last season, the Spanish national team won the 2008 and 2012 European championships, as well as the FIFA World Cup in 2010 - the first time a team has won three straight national championships.
Iniesta played a crucial role in those victories, scoring the winning goal in the 116th minute against the Netherlands in 2010 to give Spain the World Cup title.
Granted, Iniesta was helped on to many of these victories by his capable teammates, Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Cesc Fabregas, and Lionel Messi among many others, Iniesta player a crucial role as the crux through which the Spanish offense went through. Carefully orchestrated passes and aggressive attacks when needed made Iniesta an incredibly dangerous player for opponents.
So yes, he is not Ronaldo or Messi. But he does carry the title of best player in Europe, at least for now.