Barcelona great Andres Iniesta will play in the J-League for Vissel Kobe alongside Theerathon Bunmathan and Lukas Podolski, the Japanese club confirmed on Thursday.
Asian football fans will get to feast their eyes on the mesmerising footwork from the former Barca captain when he dons the Ushi jersey at the conclusion of the 2018 World Cup.
The 34-year-old playmaker and former World Cup winner moves for an undisclosed fee, having signed a contract that Vissel Kobe says will keep him in Japan for “multiple years.”
Iniesta ended his 21-year association with Barcelona after landing his ninth La Liga title with the club this past season.
Kobe unveiled their new signing at a press conference in Tokyo on Thursday, where Iniesta appeared alongside the club’s billionaire owner and chairman Hiroshi Mikitani.
＼5/26 イニエスタ選手ウェルカムイベント「Bienvenido ANDRÉS INIESTA（ビエンベニード アンドレス イニエスタ）」開催／
— ヴィッセル神戸 (@vissel_kobe) May 24, 2018
“I am pleased to announce that Andres Iniesta will be signing up to play for Vissel Kobe after his historic career at FC Barcelona,” Mikitani said.
“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.
👍 @andresiniesta8 good luck for your new adventure in Japan with @vissel_kobe! 🇯🇵
We are sure the fans will enjoy your magic
We will follow you via Barça and @FCBarcelona_JP!
🔵🔴 #Infinit8Iniesta pic.twitter.com/ipTzOtS1vA
— FC Barcelona 🏆🏆 (@FCBarcelona) May 24, 2018
“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.”
Rumbo a mi nuevo hogar, con mi amigo @hmikitani…🇯🇵⚽ ✈️ 🌍
Heading to my new home, with my friend 🇯🇵⚽ ✈️ 🌍 pic.twitter.com/xeXBw4GYfc
— Andrés Iniesta (@andresiniesta8) May 23, 2018
Iniesta said the trust and confidence Vissel Kobe showed in him was instrumental in his decision to turn down offers from other clubs.
“I had a lot of offers, other clubs showed an interest in me,” said Iniesta, who is reported to be on a $30m annual salary.
“I chose Vissel Kobe because it was an interesting project.”
He added: “There was also a lot of trust and confidence in me as a person and also as a player – that was a big reason.”
Vissel currently sit in sixth place in the J-League with six wins, four draws and five losses from their 15 games to date.