Departing Barcelona captain Andrés Iniesta is on the verge of signing for Japanese top-flight side Vissel Kobe, with a deal expected to be announced on Thursday.
Iniesta played his final game for the Spanish champions on Sunday, bringing to an end a glittering 16-year spell at the club that saw him win eight La Liga titles as well as four Champions Leagues.
After saying his final goodbyes to the club Iniesta flew to Japan, to finalise personal terms with Kobe, who are owned by the chief executive of Barcelona’s main sponsor Rakuten.
The 33-year-old is expected to sign a three-year deal with the club, who have never won a league championship and currently sit sixth in the 18-team J1 League.
Iniesta would not be the first former Barcelona player to feature for Kobe, who are captained by the former Arsenal forward Lukas Podolski.
Danish legend Michael Laudrup moved to the side from Real Madrid in 1996, spending just over a year in the country. Meanwhile former Barcelona striker Gary Lineker ended his career playing for Nagoya Grampus Eight, who used to be managed by Arsene Wenger.
Iniesta announced at a news conference in April that he was calling time on his career with Barcelona. He joined the club’s famed La Masia academy aged just 12-years-old.
“This is my last season here,” Iniesta said during an emotional press conference. “I want to thank my team-mates. My only aim was to be a success at this club and I have done that.”
Iniesta ended his Barcelona career having made 674 appearances for the senior side, during a period of unprecedented national and continental success.
The midfielder has also been a key player for the Spain national team, winning the 2010 South Africa World Cup as well as two European Championships.
After formally signing with Kobe, he will return to Spain where he will join up with the national team squad next Monday, as Julen Lopetegui – who this week signed a two-year contract extension – begins his preparations for the World Cup finals in Russia.
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