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Andres Iniesta likely is just weeks away from being crowned the world's greatest soccer player, but his days at Barcelona may be numbered, a club source told Yahoo! Sports on Tuesday.
Iniesta's spectacular year included the winning goal for Spain in the World Cup final, and the 26-year-old is a strong favorite to win the FIFA Ballon D'Or award for player of the year on Jan. 10.
However, Barca's hierarchy has not ruled out offloading him for a huge transfer fee, either during the January window or next summer, in a bid to cut into the club's enormous debt of around $575 million. That huge sum was revealed by club officials three months ago following the end of former club president Joan Lapporta's controversial reign. While big-club debt is not uncommon, the number is staggering.
"[Iniesta's] stock will never be higher," said the source. "He has had an amazing year and he is part of the fabric of [Barcelona], but that doesn't mean the right offer won't be considered and possibly accepted."
The 5-foot-7 midfielder has spent his entire career at the Camp Nou and has helped the team win the La Liga title the past two seasons. The combination of Iniesta with Xavi Hernandez and Lionel Messi – the other two finalists for the Ballon D'Or – is a major reason why Barca is considered not only the best, but also the most attractive club in the world.
In normal circumstances, Barca would not entertain selling a player who has become so popular and valuable. However, deep financial uncertainty has the powers-that-be considering drastic measures to combat the debt.
Last week Barcelona announced the first shirt sponsorship deal in its history, accepting $200 million over five years from the Qatar Foundation in exchange for pride of place on the famous blue and red jersey.
Iniesta would be valued at around $85 million, a figure that only one club could realistically pay. English Premier League side Manchester City, bankrolled by the unlimited resources of Arabian billionaire Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan, has shown willingness to splash obscene amounts of cash in order to boost its chance of success.
City's progress this season – it currently sits third in the EPL table, just two points back from leaders Manchester United – could convince Sheikh Mansour that one spectacular January signing may be enough to tip them over the edge and clinch an unexpected EPL crown. It also should be noted that no signings would make more waves than anything involving Iniesta.
Blatter puts his foot in it – again
Fallout from the controversial decision to award Qatar the 2022 World Cup refuses to die down – and FIFA president Sepp Blatter isn't exactly helping his cause.
Blatter's attempt at a joke by suggesting that gay visitors to the tournament should "refrain from any sexual activities" – a reference to Qatar's strict anti-homosexuality laws – has prompted outrage from civil rights groups.
Furthermore, FIFA is now facing possible legal action from Wm Morrison, a supermarket chain that backed the unsuccessful England 2018 bid. Wm Morrison is asserting that Blatter's post-election comment about the importance of "going to new lands," despite England having the best technical bid, meant that the English did not stand a chance and the millions spent on their campaign were wasted.
Holden court in the EPL
The superb form of Bolton Wanderers' American midfielder Stuart Holden has prompted a mini-inquest at more than one EPL club.
Newcastle, Birmingham City and Wolves all looked at Holden during his time with the Houston Dynamo, but decided the 24-year-old was not up to top-flight standard.
Holden is now firmly established at the heart of the Bolton midfield as the club continues its impressive campaign under head coach Owen Coyle, and his performances have not escaped the attention of U.S. national team boss Bob Bradley.