ANDRES INIESTA committed himself to Barcelona for the rest of his career yesterday, signing the first “lifetime contract” in the club’s history.
The midfield’s previous deal would have expired next year.
Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu said it was “a reward for Andres’s exceptional career.”
Iniesta has made 639 appearances for Barcelona since making his debut 15 years ago, second only to his former teammate Xavi.
He has been at the club since 1996, having joined their famed youth set-up at La Masia at the age of 12.
The Spain international has won eight La Liga titles and four Champions League crowns with the Catalan giants and has captained the side since 2015.
Iniesta said: “This is a very special day for me, simply because it means I’m staying at my home, where I can continue to dream of achieving great things for this club. It’s where I have grown and developed.
“I look forward to staying here and helping the team to achieve our targets and then at the end of the season I’ll think about what would be best for everyone.”
The announcement followed Iniesta’s comments on Thursday about the continuing tension between Catalonia and the Spanish state over regional officials’ independence referendum.
National police were sent to halt the vote, which was declared illegal, and acted brutally towards voters and protesters.
Iniesta, normally quiet off the pitch, wrote to his followers on Twitter: “I have never commented publicly on such complex situations with different sentiments, but the situation that we are living is exceptional and I have one thing clear: before we harm ourselves further, negotiate.
“The ones responsible for all of this, negotiate. Do it for all of us, we deserve to live in peace.”
Bartomeu made the same request in a statement, writing that “Barcelona demands a process of dialogue and negotiations to find political solutions to the situation in Catalonia, and for this to be done with the utmost respect for the wish of the majority of Catalan people to decide on their future.”
Iniesta was unable to play for Spain in last night’s World Cup qualifier against Albania because he was injured.