Barcelona's Andres Iniesta is a 'world emblem' - Luis Enrique

Luis Enrique has heaped praise on "world emblem" Andres Iniesta as the Barcelona midfielder celebrates 20 years at the Catalan club.

The 32-year-old arrived at Barca's famous La Masia academy on Sept. 16, 1996, leaving his family behind in Fuentealbilla to embark on his dream of becoming a professional footballer.

He's since described that day as "the worst of his life" but as the titles have rolled in -- 29 with the Blaugrana and three with Spain -- it's proved worth the effort.

Luis Enrique is struck by the manner in which Iniesta has achieved so much success and lauded his character as much as his talent.

"Andres is a marvellous player," the Barcelona coach said in a news conference on Friday as he reflected on Iniesta's career.

"It's a wonderful landmark that he's been here for 20 years, leaving his family behind to come here as a child.

"Now he's the club captain and an emblem not just in Spain and Europe, but all around the world.

"I'd highlight the way he's done it, too, the values he has. I don't think he's been sent off, no one remembers him doing anything nasty, neither in victory nor in defeat.

"It's a pleasure to have him as captain for everything that he represents -- there won't be many Iniestas."

In a special interview with Catalan newspaper Sport to mark his two decades at the club, Iniesta ruminated on his early days in Barcelona.

Despite the difficulty of leaving home as a 12-year-old, he acknowledged that it was the right decision.

"It was all worth it, obviously," he said. "La Masia is my home, it's where I spent a lot of time and where I grew as a person.

"I matured at a tremendous speed and everything that I have been able to do, is largely thanks to my time there.

"What I learned as a player and as a person is what I consider most important when I look back."