As much as he has attracted attention on the pitch, become a gold mine for sponsors, won a string of titles and scored Spain's winning goal in 2010 World Cup final, Andrés Iniesta has not forgotten his roots. The Barcelona star, who grew up in the small town of Fuentealbilla, Albacete province, has just injected 420,000 euros into cash-strapped Albacete Balompíe, the provincial capital club he joined at the age of eight.
Back then, Iniesta the kid would watch the team play against the best in Primera División, but now Albacete languishes in Segunda B, mired in a deep financial crisis that has forced the player to come to the rescue - only this time with his check book rather than his soccer boots.
The money, which turns Iniesta into the club's largest shareholder, is a lifeline for the team: "Another display of his and his family's commitment to this area," explains relieved club president Rafael Candel. Albacete Balompíe owes 13 million euros and after dropping down to Segunda B last season filed for bankruptcy in April. It later carried out a three-stage program to expand its capital, finalized last Friday, after which Iniesta acquired 7,000 of the 20,000 shares up for grabs. In all, 15,077 were snapped up. "More than what we expected," Candel admitted Monday. "It's such an honor to have a member like him. On top of that he signed all the shares personally and not in the name of a business. It shows his love for the club once again."
Iniesta's intervention does not just cover the immediate needs of the club - paying the players' wages, and so on - but will also serve as a lure to more investors and season-ticket holders.
"I was an Albacete supporter," Iniesta has said. "Many stories have been told, but that is the reality; my father was an Athletic fan, and I liked Albacete and Barça, my second team. At the weekends, as I had a pass to play in the juniors, I went to see the Primera División matches. [...] The year they went up  was a great year for me."