Spanish football legend Andres Iniesta played his last game for Japanese club Vissel Kobe on Saturday (Philip FONG)
Spanish football legend Andres Iniesta played his last game for Japanese club Vissel Kobe on Saturday, as he prepares to continue his illustrious career elsewhere.
The 39-year-old started the game in midfield wearing the captain’s armband and played the first 57 minutes of Kobe’s 1-1 home draw with Consadole Sapporo in the J-League.
Iniesta made over 600 appearances for Barcelona, winning the Champions League four times and claiming nine La Liga titles before joining Kobe in 2018.
He has said he intends to keep playing but has not announced where his next move will be.
On Saturday, in the 36th minute, he broke into the penalty area and tried to score a goal to the cheers of the spectators.
But 12 minutes into the second half, he was substituted with his team a goal down.
“Thank you Iniesta for playing for Vissel Kobe for many years,” a fan tweeted as the Spanish player retreated to the bench.
“Iniesta, thank you for coming to Japan,” another fan tweeted.
After the final whistle, a cheering spectator was seeing holding a banner that read “Gracias Iniesta.”
Iniesta joined Kobe on a three-year deal on a reported annual salary of $30 million, which he extended in May 2021.
He won Japan’s domestic Emperor’s Cup in 2019 and led Vissel to the semi-finals of the Asian Champions League a year later.
But he has been used sparingly by the club this season, explaining in May that he wanted to leave Kobe so that he could “retire while I’m still active”.
He played for Kobe in a friendly against Barcelona in Tokyo last month, sharing a hug with manager and former midfield partner Xavi as he left the pitch.
Widely considered one of the greatest players of his generation, Iniesta has been linked with a non-playing role at Barcelona.