‘Heading to my new home’: Barcelona legend Andres Iniesta on verge of Japan move as he poses for picture with Vissel Kobe owner
- Andres Iniesta is leaving Barcelona this summer after 22 years at the club
- He was linked with a move to China but now appears to be joining side in Japan
- Media are reporting he is heading to Vissel Kobe, owned by Barca’s sponsors
- Gary Lineker used to play in Japan, and Lukas Podolski is at Vissel Kobe currently
Spain midfielder Andres Iniesta is on the verge of signing for Japanese top-flight side Vissel Kobe, after indicating via social media that his next club will be in the Far East.
Iniesta posted a picture on Twitter of him with Hiroshi Mikitani, owner of Kobe and also the chief executive of Barcelona’s main sponsor Rakuten.
Iniesta wrote: ‘Heading to my new home, with my friend’, along with a Japanese flag emoji, as he and Mikitani sat on a plane.
Andres Iniesta appears to be on the verge of signing for Japanese top-flight side Vissel Kobe
Iniesta has called time on his Barcelona career after a trophy-laden 22 years at the club
Iniesta lifted plenty of trophies at the Nou Camp but will now move onto pastures new
Barcelona-based newspaper Mundo Deportivo said the midfielder, who played his final game for Barca on Sunday after a glittering 16-year career, flew to Japan on Wednesday and is expected to hold a news conference the next day.
Kobe have never won Japan’s league championship and are currently placed seventh in the J-League.
If Iniesta completes the move he will join up with former German international Lukas Podolski, who joined Kobe last year.
Barcelona and Denmark great Michael Laudrup played for Kobe for one season between 1996 and 1997, while former Barca striker Gary Lineker saw out his playing career in Japan with Nagoya Grampus.
Iniesta announced at a news conference in April that he was calling time on his long career with Barca, where he moved to aged 12 in 1996 to join the club’s academy.
It has been reported that Iniesta will join Lukas Podolski at Japanese side Vissel Kobe
Gary Lineker is another player who finished his career in Japan, with Nagoya Grampus Eight
He lifted a ninth La Liga title on Sunday in a fitting send off at Barca’s stadium, with his team-mates all giving him a guard of honour and wearing his name and number eight on the back of their shirts during the title celebrations.
After signing his contract with his new club, Iniesta will join up with the Spain squad next Monday to begin preparations for the World Cup in Russia.
They will be looking to lift the trophy for a second time after Iniesta’s goal in the 2010 final against the Netherlands gave them their first triumph.