Andres Iniesta, a former midfielder for Spain and Barcelona, left Japanese side Vissel Kobe on an emotional note on Saturday. Still, the 2010 World Cup champion has yet to indicate where he’ll be playing next as he didn’t announce his retirement from football.
The 39-year-old concluded his five years in Japan with a 57-minute cameo in a 1-1 tie with Consadole Sapporo, the match in which Spain defeated the Netherlands to win the title in South Africa in 2010.
Due to a string of ailments that have hampered his participation in the current campaign as Kobe has made a rare challenge for the J.League championship, this game was Iniesta’s first start in the league this season.
According to Kyodo News, a tearful Iniesta told a packed Misaki Park Stadium, “The last few months have been a really tough period both for me and those close to me.”
“I have the desire to retire and end my playing career, and I’m taking my next step in accordance with that emotion,” the player said.
Iniesta joined Kobe, a team that is owned by Hiroshi Mikitani, a multibillionaire businessman, in the summer of 2018. He assisted the team in winning their first trophy in 2019 when they defeated Kashima Antlers to win the Emperor’s Cup.
Kobe is currently in third place in the J.League, two points behind leaders Yokohama F Marinos. The team made its debut in the Asian Champions League the following season, reaching the semi-finals.
“I feel like I succeeded in doing that, and I gave everything I had both on and off the pitch,” I said. I sincerely hope you share my enthusiasm for this club.
The heartfelt farewell from Iniesta brought back memories of his dramatic departure from Barcelona five years before. After publicly declaring his departure from his childhood team in 2018, the Spaniard went to the pitch by himself to sit in the centre circle during his final match.
Some would have anticipated that Iniesta, who is 39 years old, would give up playing, especially after injuries spoiled his season. Cesc Fabregas, a former teammate of his from Barcelona and Spain, made the same announcement on Saturday.