BARCELONA. — The saga of where Andres Iniesta will go next is officially over. Not China, Australia or the Middle East (like former Barcelona teammate Xavi) but Japan.
The J.League is now home to one of the best soccer players in the world and Vissel Kobe are once again showing their ambition to move from a middling Japanese team to the best in Asia.
It is only a matter of time before the 2010 World Cup winner slides the ball through a packed Japanese defence for 2014 champion Lukas Podolski to score a goal for the Kansai club. Kobe have never won the league title — or come close to doing so – but they are now the talk of the football world.
Japan seems a better football fit for Iniesta than the other destinations mentioned. With a game built on passing and technique, the 34-year-old will fit right in. He should find teammates and opponents alike willing and ready to learn from one of the greatest players in the modern era.
Not just colleagues but kids, too. Kobe chairman Hiroshi Mikitani told reporters at the player’s unveiling in Tokyo yesterday that he wants Iniesta to show future players the right way.
“We look forward to not only his strengthening of the team’s performance, but his contribution to the development of our next generation of players through the introduction of the Iniesta methodology to Vissel’s youth academy,” he said.
The chance to leave a legacy may well appeal to Iniesta, a player who has won all there is to win, though a reported wage of $90 million over three years helps.
He can also, as Mikitani pointed out, help inspire the whole of Japanese football and will be able to do that as much from his name and profile as with his skills.
The J.League had lost a little of its lustre in recent years. — ESPN.