ANDRES INIESTA DECLARES GAAL THE 'MOST IMPORTANT' MANAGER IN HIS CAREER
BARCELONA - Barcelona icon Andres Iniesta has surprised fans by labelling Louis van Gaal the most important manager in his career.
The 34-year-old midfielder announced last month that he would leave Spanish champions Barcelona at the end of the season after 16 trophy-filled years at Nou Camp.
Ahead of his departure, the Spaniard was asked by Mundo Deportivo to describe a number of former team-mates and coaches in a sentence.
And when asked about former Barcelona and Manchester United boss Van Gaal, Iniesta replied with 'my most important manager'.
Many would have expected the World Cup winner to bestow that honour on current Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola, under whom he truly established himself as one of the world's best.
However, Van Gaal, was responsible for handing Iniesta his professional debut back in 2002 and he clearly feels the Dutchman was crucial to his development despite the fact they spent just six months together.
Van Gaal spent two spells in charge of Barcelona, winning two La Liga titles between 1997 and 2000 before returning for a brief period in 2002 where results did not go his way.
But he evidently made an impact on Iniesta during that second spell, something the Barca icon made clear in an interview a few years ago.
'I'm grateful to (Louis) van Gaal for his trust and to all the coaches that I had before that taught me and helped me to get the best moment that I'd been chasing up to that time,' Iniesta told Barcelona's YouTube channel in 2015
'I think my first team debut was the most important day,' Iniesta said on Barcelona's YouTube channel. 'It was the most important because I'd been dreaming about it for so long.'
Asked for his thoughts on Guardiola, Iniesta replied: 'A master for me.'
The midfielder also said Frank Rijkaard, under whom he won his first Champions League title, was 'the ideal coach for that period of my life' while describing Tito Vilanova as an 'exceptional manager and person.'
IMPORTANT PERSON: Barcelona legend Andres Iniesta says Gaal is his most important manager.