TOKYO (AP) — Former Barcelona playmaker Andres Iniesta was introduced as the newest member of Japanese club Vissel Kobe on Thursday, a poorly kept secret that’s been rumoured for weeks.
Iniesta appeared before a packed press conference in Tokyo on Thursday along with Kobe’s billionaire owner Hiroshi Mikitani.
“I’m pleased to announce,” Mikitani said, “that Andres Iniesta will be signing up play with Vissel Kobe after his historic career at Barcelona.”
Mikitani is also the CEO of Barcelona’s main sponsor Rakuten, a Japanese online retailer.
Iniesta previously had said he would probably retire from international soccer after Spain plays at this year’s World Cup in Russia.
The 34-year-old Iniesta scored the winning goal for Spain in the 2010 World Cup final. He also was a key part of Spain’s two European Championships in 2008 and 2012.
He announced last month he would leave Barcelona after 16 seasons. His last match for the Spanish club was on Sunday against Real Sociedad at Camp Nou.
The J-League team is sixth after 15 games. It signed Lukas Podolski last year, but the German striker is out until the end of June with an injured calf.