Barcelona legend Andres Iniesta has announced he is leaving Japanese side Vissel Kobe and plans to continue playing, although the 39-year-old midfielder is not sure where yet.
Iniesta, who won the World Cup with Spain in 2010 and four Champions League titles and nine La Liga championships with Barcelona, brushed back tears on Thursday as he confirmed his exit from the J-League club.
Asked where he might play, he said: “I have to tell you the truth, I don't know.
“I want to keep playing football. I feel like I am capable of still playing,” Iniesta added, speaking in Spanish. “But as this chapter closes, we'll see what's possible. I want to finish my career on the pitch playing, and this is what I'm hoping to do."
News reports suggested a stint in the Middle East, but with no details about clubs.
“It's a very emotional day after so many years," he said. “I tried to give my best on and off the pitch. I am very proud of that.”
After finishing his long and illustrious tenure at Barcelona, Iniesta joined Vissel Kobe in 2018 on a three-year deal, and prolonged his stay with a two-year extension. News reports indicate his reason for leaving is because he wants more playing time.
Iniesta just turned 39 and made the announcement at a club news conference in the western city of Kobe.
His last game for the club is expected to be at home on July 1, a farewell to fans. Vissel Kobe lead the J-League standings by three points after 14 rounds.
It was Iniesta who scored the winning goal in extra time in the 116th minute of the 2010 World Cup in a 1-0 victory over the Netherlands for Spain's only World Cup title.
The veteran midfielder described going to Japan as one of the best decisions of his life. He repeatedly said “thank you” to the club, the fans, and to his fellow players.
“I was made to feel welcome here from the first day,” he said.