Spanish La Liga

Confirmed: Andres Iniesta signs for Vissel Kobe to help spread J.League in Asia

Midfield maestro signs on for Japanese side after jetting in with club boss Hiroshi Mikitani

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 May, 2018, 3:54pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 24 May, 2018, 6:25pm

Andres Iniesta has signed for Japanese J.League side Vissel Kobe it was announced at a press conference on Thursday afternoon in Tokyo.

Barcelona legend Andres Iniesta joined Japan’s Vissel Kobe on Thursday, the club’s owner Hiroshi Mikitani said, describing him as a “world-class” player.

“I am pleased to announce today that Andres Iniesta will be signing up to play with Vissel Kobe after his historic career at FC Barcelona,” Mikitani told reporters in Tokyo.

“This is a very special day for me. This is a very important challenge for my career,” said Iniesta, set to pocket an estimated annual salary of US$30 million.

“The J-League will hopefully spread in Asia. I’d like to help with that,” added Iniesta.

Mikitani said Iniesta “plays the most beautiful soccer in the world.”

The club also welcomed the player on Twitter while former club Barcelona wished him well on both their English and Japanese accounts.

Iniesta will wear his iconic number eight shirt for his new club, who currently sit sixth in the top flight after 15 games, but he will not make his debut until after the World Cup in Russia.

The transfer was believed to be impending on Wednesday after both Iniesta and Vissel Kobe owner Hiroshi Mikitani posted on social media as they travelled to Japan via private jet, while the club confirmed a press conference to announce a new player would take place.

The move puts an end to speculation over the former Barcelona’s midfielder after he confirmed last month that he was to leave the Camp Nou after 22 years.

It was rumoured that the World Cup winner would move to the Chinese Super League, where Chongqing Dangdai Lifan had emerged as a destination thanks to Iniesta’s existing business interests with chairman Jiang Lizhang’s Desportes agency, but in recent weeks the J.League outfit have taken the lead.

Barcelona star Andres Iniesta picks J.League move as he heads to ‘new home’ Japan

This is in part because the club are owned by Mikitani, who is also CEO of Barcelona’s main sponsor Rakuten.

Both clubs had denied a deal for the 34-year-old.

Iniesta’s former Spanish international teammate Fernando Torres has also reportedly agreed to move to Japan with Spanish media outlets suggesting that a deal taking him to J2 League side Sagan Tosu will be announced in the coming days.

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Iniesta is the second World Cup winner on the Vissel roster where he joins former Germany international Lukas Podolski.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse