The World Cup-winning midfielder has been officially unveiled by his new J-League employers after bringing an iconic career at Camp Nou to a close.
By SportBrief Reporter
Andres Iniesta has been officially unveiled as a Vissel Kobe player, with the J-League outfit having snapped up the Barcelona legend in the wake of his departure from Camp Nou.
Having graduated out of the famed La Masia academy system in Catalunya, the 34-year-old matured into one of the most decorated players of the modern era.
He helped Barca to nine La Liga titles and four Champions League crowns during his time at Camp Nou, while also landing World Cup and European Championship honours with Spain.
Iniesta has, however, decided to open himself up to a new challenge and will be continuing his distinguished career in Asia.
A social media post on Wednesday revealed that the classy midfielder was heading to a “new home” , with Vissel Kobe now confirmed as that destination.
He told reporters after penning a contract: “This is a very special day for me. This is a very important challenge for my career. I’d like to express my heartfelt gratitude for your trust in this project.
“There were many offers. I’d like to thank the other clubs who showed an interest. The reason I chose Vissel is because this is a very interesting project. They trusted me as a player.
“Japan is amazing, the culture is good. I’d like to get used to Japan, enjoy the life here and get into the team.”
China had been considered the most likely landing spot for an iconic figure once his departure from Barca after 16 seasons was announced.
No deal could be done there, though, while talk of a possible switch to the Australian A-League also came to nothing.
Instead, Iniesta has headed to Japan, with Vissel Kobe parading their new signing at a press conference in Tokyo on Thursday.
The club’s chairman, Hiroshi Mikitaini – who is the chief executive of Japanese electronics company Rakuten, who are Barcelona’s shirt sponsors – believes Iniesta can be “a terrific inspiration for Japanese football society” and help Vissel Kobe complete their “goal of becoming the number one club in Asia”.