Andres Iniesta’s move to Japanese club Vissel Kobe has been confirmed.
Iniesta appeared before a packed press conference in Tokyo on Thursday along with Kobe’s billionaire owner Hiroshi Mikitani.
‘I’m pleased to announce that Andres Iniesta will be signing up play with Vissel Kobe after his historic career at Barcelona,’ Mikitani said.
Andres Iniesta has signed for Japanese club Vissel Kobe after his Barcelona departure
Hiroshi Mikitani welcomed Iniesta to Japan and Vissel ‘after his historic career at Barcelona’
Mikitani is also the CEO of Barcelona’s main sponsor Rakuten, a Japanese online retailer.
He added: ‘Iniesta is a top global player. Many of us will recall Iniesta’s astounding goal in the final of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa that brought Spain its first title in the tournament.
‘Since 2015, Iniesta has also led Barcelona as captain and last year he was the first player to sign a lifetime contract with the club.’
‘I am confident Iniesta’s philosophy, leadership and DNA will be a terrific inspiration, not only for Vissel Kobe but all Japanese football society.
‘We look forward to Andres Iniesta not only strengthening the team’s performance but also contributing to the development of the next generation of players through the introduction of the Iniesta methodology to the youth academy.
‘We believe his decision to come to Japan will have a major impact, not just on Vissel Kobe, but on football in Japan and Asia.’
‘Iniesta will raise the profile of Japanese football globally and we are working on activities to leverage his presence here and promote the J.League worldwide. I am very proud to see this day come.
‘We will do everything in our power to support Iniesta during his time in Japan and show us all his beautiful, inspiring play.’
Iniesta previously had said he would probably retire from international soccer after Spain plays at this year’s World Cup in Russia.
The 34-year-old Iniesta scored the winning goal for Spain in the 2010 World Cup final. He also was a key part of Spain’s two European Championships in 2008 and 2012.
He announced last month he would leave Barcelona after 16 seasons. His last match for the Spanish club was on Sunday against Real Sociedad at Camp Nou.
The J-League team is sixth after 15 games. It signed Lukas Podolski last year, but the German striker is out until the end of June with an injured calf.