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Barcelona great Andres Iniesta heads to Japan

The 34-year-old playmaker has joined Vissel Kobe after leaving the Nou Camp.

Spain midfielder Andres Iniesta has signed for Japanese side Vissel Kobe after bringing the curtain down on his brilliant Barcelona career.

The 34-year-old playmaker left the Catalan giants after landing his ninth LaLiga title with the club. He also secured a host of other honours, including four Champions League triumphs.

A World Cup winner with Spain in 2010, Iniesta captained Barcelona during his final three seasons at the club.

Vissel Kobe, coached by Takayuki Yoshida, sit sixth in the Japanese top flight after 15 games of their season, already 15 points behind runaway leaders Sanfrecce Hiroshima.

Vissel Kobe chairman Hiroshi Mikitani told reporters at a press conference: “I am pleased to announce that Andres Iniesta will be signing up to play for Vissel Kobe after his historic career at FC Barcelona.

“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 FC Barcelona as captain and last year he was the first player to sign a lifetime contract with the club.”

Mikitani added: “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.”

Mikitani continued: “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 played the final match of his 22-year Barca career last Sunday as the club rounded off their title-winning LaLiga campaign with a 1-0 victory over Real Sociedad at the Nou Camp.

The 34-year-old came through the club’s famous La Masia academy and left having won nine league titles and four Champions League trophies, as well as one World Cup with Spain in 2010 and two European Championships in 2008 and 2012.

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