Thanks to Tony K.

Farewell to Tony Kornheiser at the end of a dream internship.

Dear Mr. Tony,

Thank you so much for inviting me into your studio back in October and enduring my stay ever since.  These past few months have been a tremendous experience for me.  When I think about all the shows you guys have done, I can hardly ever remember which conversations were actually on-air and which were just between us.  Goes to show you why your show is great - it’s natural.

With all that I’ve gained from being able to watch you work, it might be somewhat uncouth for me to ask for a parting favor, but here I go anyway: even though I know you’re not exactly the biggest soccer guy in the world, the next time you talk about soccer on PTI or (God forbid) the Tony Kornheiser Show, for whatever reason it is - a spectacular goal, the conclusion of a major international tournament - please, please, please find a way to drop the name Andres Iniesta into the conversation.  

Heres how it could go down. The next time Wilbon calls Lionel Messi ‘ the best players in the world’, you say: ‘Well, him and Ronaldo are great forwards, but I’ve been hearing a lot about this Iniesta kid.’

First off, Reali will go nuts.  Secondly, the man is in fact more than arguably the best player of his generation, he could  very well end up being the best soccer player in the history of the sport.  His teams have won everything, and time after time he has proven to be the critical factor.  (Neither Spain or Barcelona have won anything big without him.)  Yet despite his ludicrous talent and impeccable track record, he is largely anonymous in the USA.  A man of your status just mentioning the name, ‘Iniesta’, aka ‘El Ilusionista’, aka ‘El Celebro’, on a show like PTI could propel the awareness of soccer in this country forward ten years

As a teen, Iniesta lead Spain to back-to-back major international youth tournaments in 2001 and 2002.  Since he joined his nation’s senior squad in 2006, Spain has won every tournament in which Iniesta has featured.  The only trophies Spain didn’t secure in that time were the 2006 World Cup, where a young Iniesta was left out of the starting lineup by a manager soon to be fired, and he 2009 Confederations Cup, which he missed due to injury.  Most people remember his name from the time he scored the only goal in the 2010 World Cup Final - the most watched event in TV history - but that sells short the fact that he also scored or set-up 4 more of the 7 goals Spain scored in that tournament.

Iniesta is arguably the most important player for his club team, the illustrious Barcelona, as well.  Although he is far less a prolific scorer than his teammate Lionel Messi, and hence far less internationally known, it’s not a coincidence that Barca has won everything there is to win in the past half dozen years and yet has not won a single major trophy without Iniesta playing a major part..  (The same cannot be said of any other Barca player.)  When Iniesta missed the springs of 2008 and 2010, Barca, a team chock full of  superstars, did not as much as reach a final in any major tournament.  He is the only Barca out-field player to feature in all 3 of their successful Champions League Finals (the Euro equivalent of the Super Bowl), and he assisted the go-ahead goal in all three of those games.

Iniesta touch and mastery of the soccer ball is indescribable.  Sir Alex Ferguson, the most accomplished manager in British history, famously said before the Champions League Final in 2009: “I don’t think [Iniesta] has ever lost the ball in his life.”  In that same press-conference, Ferguson said: “I’m not obsessed with Messi.  Iniesta is the worry.” And after Iniesta  sure enough beat Fergusons’s Manchester United in that final - (toward the end of which Messi scored a meaningless goal) - several United players, including their talisman, Wayne Rooney hailed him as “the best player in the world.”    I’m not asking you to make that argument - because you don’t know that to be true (and probably don’t care either way).  But I implore you, please, please mention his name on air and enlighten an American public that mostly understands greatness in that sport by looking up Messi’s slight statistical superiority over his rival Cristiano Ronaldo.  

The sooner you say his name the better. Because if Iniesta leads Spain to victory in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil - making it a once inconceivable four straight international championships for Spain - there will no longer be any doubt whether Iniesta stands alongside the other legends in football - the question instead will become whether or not the little Spaniard is the most accomplished athlete in the history of any sport.