Andres Iniesta to leave Vissel Kobe amid lack of playing time; won’t retire yet

Spain and Barcelona legend Andres Iniesta has said he is leaving Japanese club Vissel Kobe after five years due to a lack of playing time, but said he does not yet wish to retire.

Iniesta, who won the World Cup with Spain in 2010 and four Champions League titles and nine La Liga championships with Barca, brushed back tears on Thursday as he announced he was leaving.

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Sources have told ESPN that Iniesta has interest from Major League Soccer, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Dubai and is open to considering offers.

The midfielder, 39, has made just three substitute appearances so far this season but said he planned to keep playing, although did not specify where.

When asked at a news conference where his next club will be, Iniesta said: “I have to tell you the truth, I don’t know.

“I want to keep playing football. I feel like I am capable of still playing. But as this chapter closes, we’ll see what’s possible. I want to finish my career on the pitch playing, and this is what I’m hoping to do.”

After finishing his long tenure at Barcelona, Iniesta joined the Japanese club in 2018 on a three-year deal, and prolonged his stay with a two-year extension.

His last game for the club is expected to be at home on July 1. Vissel Kobe are top of the J-League after 14 rounds.

“It’s a very emotional day after so many years,” he added. “I tried to give my best on and off the pitch. I am very proud of that.”

Iniesta famously scored the winning goal in extra time at the 2010 World Cup final in a 1-0 victory over the Netherlands for Spain’s only World Cup title.

The veteran midfielder described going to Japan as one of the best decisions of his life, repeatedly saying “thank you” to the club, the fans, and to his fellow players.

“I was made to feel welcome here from the first day,” he said.

ESPN’s Moises Llorens contributed to this report.