Spain legend Andres Iniesta has signed for Japanese side Vissel Kobe after bringing down the curtain on his glittering Barcelona career.
Iniesta, 34, appeared before a packed news conference at a central Tokyo hotel on Thursday along with Kobe’s billionaire owner, Hiroshi Mikitani.
“I’m pleased to announce that Andrés Iniesta will be signing up play with Vissel Kobe after his historic career at Barcelona,” said Mikitani, who is also the CEO of the Barcelona sponsor Rakuten, a Japanese online retailer.
After putting pen to paper on the three-year deal worth $30m (£22.5m) annually, Iniesta said he chose Vissel because of the ‘project’ they had.
“For me this is a very special day,” the Spaniard said through an interpreter. “This is an important challenge for me. My family is excited to come to Japan and we are very pleased. There were many offers. Other clubs showed interest. But I decided to sign with Vissel Kobe because the project presented to me was impressive.”
The former Barca captain, who is expected to retire from international football after this summer’s World Cup, held up the team’s red shirt with his famous No 8 on the back and his name written across the bottom.
Vissel Kobe are sixth in the J-League after 15 games, and will rely on the magic and experience of Iniesta to pull them through.