Spain in good hands with Iniesta
SIX years from delivering the most important strike of a football in Spanish history, Andres Iniesta remains the cornerstone of a La Roja side hoping to rekindle former glories at Euro 2016.
His extra-time goal in the 2010 World Cup final against the Netherlands will be his lasting legacy. But his technique, quick feet as a midfielder and humble off-field demeanour have been pillars around which Spain's back-to-back European Championship victories have been built.
The Barcelona captain will be one of the few remaining figures from all of Spain's three consecutive major tournament triumphs between 2008 and 2012 among Vicente del Bosque's squad in France.
More significantly, of those left from that glory run, Iniesta's inclusion is the most undisputed.
While del Bosque's loyalty to Iker Casillas and Cesc Fabregas - despite a dramatic dip in their club form - has been questioned, Iniesta, completing his 14th season at Barcelona, has shone for his side over the past two years.
He was named in the Fifa World XI for the seventh time last year.
Such is his importance, del Bosque even left Iniesta out for friendly matches against Italy and Romania in March to give his 31-year-old legs extra rest ahead of the demands of a fourth international tournament in five years.
Without his sidekick of many years, Xavi Hernandez, Barca's style has become slightly more direct to accommodate the talents of a forward line containing Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar.
Just as key to Iniesta's status as a national treasure in Spain after his World Cup win, is a humility often at odds with modern footballers.
He joined Barcelona as a 12-year-old and has been a rock through a career with four Champions League and seven Spanish league titles.
"Hero? No way," he told El Pais on how his life changed after that goal against the Netherlands in Johannesburg.
"Heroes fight against illnesses, or people who have to emigrate to feed their children.
"I am privileged that I play football and that at times I have the luck to make people happy by scoring a goal or giving a pass to help win a game."
Whether the remnants of Spain's golden generation have a final day of joy to offer with a third consecutive Euro title will depend much on Iniesta producing his magic on the big stage once more in France.