Iniesta's Vissel Kobe move confirmed

After being linked with switches to China and Australia, Barcelona and Spain great Andres Iniesta has joined J.League club Vissel Kobe.

Barcelona captain Andres Iniesta   -  Getty Images

Spain midfielder Andres Iniesta's move to J.League club Vissel Kobe was confirmed on Thursday at a specially arranged news conference in Tokyo.

Iniesta, 34, played his final game for Barcelona in Sunday's 1-0 victory over Real Sociedad, leaving LaLiga's champions after 16 trophy-laden seasons.

The star playmaker was heavily linked with a move to the Chinese Super League – Chongqing Lifan were widely viewed as the frontrunners - and Australia was also mooted as a possible destination.

But Vissel Kobe, whose club chairman Hiroshi Mikitani is the chief executive of Japanese electronics company and Barcelona shirt sponsor Rakuten, have got their man.

Iniesta has signed a reported three-year deal with the club, who are sixth in the table after 15 games this season.

"For me this is a very special day. This is a very important challenge for my career," he said after penning his contract.

"Hopefully the J.League will spread in Asia and I would like to help that process. I would like to get to know my team-mates and I am really looking forward to that.

"There were many offers. I'd like to thank the other clubs who had shown interest. The project presented to me was very interesting. As a player and a person they had big confidence in me and that was a big reason.

"Japan is a great country and Japanese culture is great. I'd like to enjoy my life in Japan and my football and be a good member of the team."

Iniesta has won nine LaLiga titles, four Champions League crowns, a World Cup and two European Championships throughout his incredible career. 

Last week he was named, as expected, in Julen Lopetegui's Spain squad for Russia 2018.

"Iniesta is a top global player. Many of us here today remember Iniesta's astounding goal in the final of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa," Mikitani told reporters ahead of Iniesta's presentation.

"We hope that he can contribute to our next generation of players. 

"Also, giving fans the chance to watch Iniesta's playing style we think will not just have a huge impact on Vissel Kobe but also on football in Japan and Asia.

"He will help us achieve our goal of becoming the number one club in Asia.

"He also has a huge social media profile and his presence here will help to promote Japanese football and the J.League worldwide."

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