Andres Iniesta’s Chinese Super League move in doubt as Barcelona-linked J.League side emerge as 11th hour suitors
A-League clubs and Rakuten-owned Vissel Kobe linked to World Cup winner but Chongqing statement means little after Bakambu’s Beijing Guoan move
Barcelona midfielder Andres Iniesta’s widely anticipated move to Chinese Super League side Chongqing Dangdai Lifan has come into doubt after the club released a statement.
Meanwhile, reports have suggested that Iniesta will move to either the Japanese J.League or Australia’s A-League, which is said to be his preferred destination.
The carefully worded three-point statement said that the club will not offer a salary that would distort the market, that they were committed to youth development in order to help the national team and that while the club and the companies of owner Jiang Lizhang have existing business with Iniesta in several areas that does not mean that any future cooperation between the parties will see Iniesta join as a player.
Jiang made his money from a sports marketing agency of which Iniesta is a client and the player had visited Chongqing as his guest before, something which had fuelled rumours of Iniesta joining the club.
Chongqing Lifan has announced that Iniesta will not 'join as a player'. pic.twitter.com/4CQ7YeXLko
— Wild East Football (@wildeastfootbal) 7 May 2018
Earlier reports had suggested World Cup winning midfielder Iniesta and the club had agreed a US$97-million, three-year contract, although there were rumours that the salary was a sticking point between the club and player and the reason why the move was not finalised in time to be announced at the press conference Iniesta called to reveal he was leaving Barcelona at the end of the season after 22 years.
Japanese J.League side Vissel Kobe have emerged as rival suitors to the CSL side, with some Spanish media outlets declaring them favourites for the Spaniard’s signature.
The Kobe side are owned by Rakuten, the same company that is Barcelona’s main shirt sponsor, and the e-commerce giant’s CEO Hiroshi Mikitani is reported to be brokering the deal, which could see Iniesta earn a reported US$25 million per year.
The Guardian reports that the player’s preferred destination is the Australian A-League.
For the upcoming signing with Chongqing Lifan, Andres Iniesta will not only be a player, but become a co-partner of Desporte, which owns Granada and Parma. One of his roles is youth training supervisor. As a partner, his salary will be similar as he could receive in Barcelona. pic.twitter.com/lx97Xw9ZtI
— Titan Sports Plus (@titan_plus) 7 May 2018
While this is all speculation at the moment and the 2010 World Cup winner said that his new destination would not be confirmed until the end of the season, it should be remembered that statements such as Chongqing’s are not unusual in the current climate of Chinese football where extravagant spending has been cut from the top.
Beijing Guoan released a statement distancing themselves from the transfer of Cedric Bakambu during the winter window only to then sign him and pay the lion’s share of the transfer tax.
The DR Congo striker has scored five goals in six games for the third place side.
Real Madrid defender and Iniesta’s Spanish international teammate Sergio Ramos joked after Sunday night’s El Clasico meeting between their two clubs that he might follow Iniesta to China: “Maybe Iniesta and I will meet in China in a few years!”