Analysis

Where are they now? The 2002 Barcelona team Andres Iniesta debuted in

Andres Iniesta

Spanish football’s most decorated player made his first appearance during a European fixture in Belgium back in 2002, but what became of the rest of his teammates?  

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After 16 glorious years which produced more than 30 trophies, Andres Iniesta is leaving Barcelona to embark on the next chapter of his illustrious career.

The midfield maestro made his Barça debut way back in 2002, during a 1-0 victory at Club Brugge in the group stage of the Champions League. Iniesta has been a one-club man until now, but what became of his teammates from that night in Belgium?

Manager: Louis van Gaal

Van Gaal – credited by Iniesta as his "most important" manager – wasn't long into his second spell with Barcelona when he handed the youngster his debut in Belgium, having rejoined the club following a three-season stint as manager of the Netherlands. The Dutchman’s first spell at Barça produced two league titles and one Copa del Rey, despite being marred by clashes with the media and a public fall-out with Rivaldo.

His second spell was far less successful. Despite a record-equalling 10 wins on the spin in the Champions League, Barça’s La Liga form was erratic and Van Gaal left the club by mutual consent in January 2003 after successive defeats to Valencia and Celta Vigo left them 12th in the table.

Van Gaal is one of the most decorated managers in football, and since leaving the Camp Nou he’s won league titles in Holland and Germany, as well as guiding the Dutch national team to third place at the 2014 World Cup. After leaving Manchester United with an FA Cup winner's medal he’s spent time off the radar, but has been strongly linked with a return to management.

GK: Robert Enke

German goalkeeper Enke was never Barcelona’s first choice between the sticks. During his brief stint at the Camp Nou, he played second fiddle to Roberto Bonano and, later, Victor Valdes, and the run-out he got against Club Brugge was one of only a handful of appearances he made for the Catalan giants.

The shot-stopper was loaned out to Turkish side Fenerbahce when Frank Rijkaard took over the following season, then Tenerife, before returning to his homeland with Hannover.

Outside of football, Enke’s story is one of great tragedy; a sad tale of a life too short. Two days after his final appearance for Hannover in 2009, the Germany international committed suicide by stepping in front of a train. Enke had battled depression for six years prior to his death and struggled to cope after losing his daughter, Lara, to heart-related complications.

DF: Carles Puyol

Barça boss Van Gaal opted for a three-man defense in Belgium, and at the heart of it was future team captain Puyol. Like Iniesta, the steely center back was a one-club man throughout his career, making almost 600 appearances for the Catalans and winning 20 major titles.

Although Puyol’s 2002/03 season was disrupted by injuries, he inherited the captain’s armband from Luis Enrique within two years and become a regular fixture in the Spanish national team. In addition to his domestic honors, the defender also won the Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup tournaments with La Roja before retiring in 2014. These days, he’s still involved in a number of football-related projects, including the agency he runs with former Espanyol star Ivan de la Pena.

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