From goals galore to the grapes of leisure
When not scoring for Barça or Spain, Andrés Iniesta likes to hang out in his village, where he makes wine
For the last month, since Spain won the European Cup, Andrés Iniesta has been enjoying a well-earned rest with family and friends in the village he grew up in, Fuentealbilla, in the heart of La Mancha's wine growing region.
He has also embarked on a new career, providing the voice of an albino buccaneer in the animated movie Piratas (Pirates).
Last week Iniesta invited the press to spend the day with him in Fuentealbilla, inviting all and sundry to sample the wines that he has begun producing.
Iniesta's house is on the corner of the main square of the village, at the end of a street bearing his name: it's easy to find. The shields of Barcelona and Spain are carved in granite, along with the respective numbers that he wears when playing for each side. In case anybody had any doubts about his loyalty to Barcelona, he has decorated the roof tiles with the side's distinctive blue and burgundy colors
Around 30 meters away is the bar run by his family, which is decorated with photos and other ephemera related to his career with the national side. There is nothing related to Barcelona.
"This village used to be 100 percent Real Madrid. But since Andrés' career took off, everything changed. All the kids support Barcelona now, so I guess that means the village is pretty much fifty-fifty between the two sides," says his cousin, who is enjoying a drink at an outside table. The two friends with him smile knowingly. "Yes, we're Madrid fans, but we are happy for Andrés," they explain. "He deserves every credit for what he has achieved."
Iniesta is only able to spend around three weeks a year in Fuentealbilla, and in summer, the place attracts fans and wellwishers hoping to bump into him. Others congregate outside the front door of his house, and every now and then he will come out to sign autographs and chat, say the locals.
"I enjoy being here, it's relaxing. Aside from the first day, when there's a big welcome, which I love, I am able to chill here, spend time in the fields, making wine. Just everyday stuff. Most people here see me as just another resident. I guess the people who have moved here since I became famous must see me differently."
The locals may be used to seeing him, but it still comes as a shock to this journalist, and the others who travelled down to Fuentealbilla to chat with the man who won Spain the World Cup. Above all because he is so modest.
"Obviously for everybody else, it's different. This is an important event for many people, and I am glad that I was able to make people happy. People just want to say thank you." the Barça star says.
This year has seen him play his part in winning the European Cup, as well as marrying. There were more people outside the Church than inside.
"It's not about whether I am surprised by the expectations people have. I got married and people wanted to be part of it. I am grateful for the respect people have for me. To get married and see that a lot of people are waiting outside to congratulate me is the best thing that could happen to me."