France Football has said sorry to Andres Iniesta for never having awarded the Barcelona and Spain icon the Ballon d’Or during his career, and urged him to excel at this summer’s FIFA World Cup so he can claim the prize for 2018.
Iniesta, 33, is widely expected to bid European football farewell at the end of the season and head to China after 16 wildly successful years at the top of the world game that have seen him amass 34 major winners’ medals, a tally he is poised to add to with a final La Liga title.
Despite his triumphs, which include scoring the 2010 FIFA World Cup final winner, Iniesta has never lifted football’s most prestigious individual prize.
The closest he has come was in finishing second to Barca team-mate Lionel Messi in 2010, while he was third two years later after being named player of the tournament as Spain won its second successive European Championship.
“Forgive us, Andres,” the magazine’s editor Pascal Ferre wrote. “For us, he wasn’t just a player, he was the player. His sacrifices for the team ultimately deprived him of greater individual recognition.
“Of all the absences on the list of Ballon d’Or winners, his is particularly painful. We can only hope he has an special campaign at the World Cup in Russia and repair this democratic anomaly.”
Ian is ESPN’s French football correspondent. Twitter: @ian_holyman