Anders Iniesta, the Spanish midfielder, who is currently playing for Vissel Kobe in Japan, has expressed his desire to head back to Catalunya. He has opened the door to a potential return to Barcelona, admitting that he still sees the club as his home.
It’s been three years since the midfield maestro Andres Iniesta has left FC Barcelona to join the J-League club Vissel Kobe. He signed his deal with the Japanese club on 24th May 2018. It was an emotional farewell for him at Barca as he was leaving his beloved club. The club gave him everything and transformed him into a legend that every Barca fan talks about with respect. It was more heartbreaking when he left because, in 2017, he signed a lifetime contract with Barcelona to be with the club till the end of his football career. But in 2018, he decided to leave the club and try something new in his football career ending his 22 year-long football life with the Spanish club.
Andres Iniesta joined the J-League with his former Spanish teammate Fernando Torres. But Torres was with another club, which is Sagan Tosu. Iniesta has played an essential role in improving the popularity of J-League around the world. Japanese football had a significant advantage by his arrival. Before that, they were struggling to have popularity around the world. But with the introduction of a star player, they flourished well, and J-League’s popularity has risen tremendously. Everyone connected with the J-League says that Iniesta has improved the global recognition of Vissel Kobe and J-League.
The popularity of Iniesta in Japan is very high. Some reports say that the Spaniard has generated more than $100 million from ticket sales and merchandise revenue. It’s a massive amount when we compare it with the previous seasons of J-League. He was also part of many TV Commercials exclusively made for the Japanese and mobile services. He was gaining popularity not just in football but also in other fields too.
Iniesta’s popularity was not just in the commercials. He had made a significant impact on the team too. Before his arrival, Vissel Kobe didn’t win a single trophy in their history. In their 55 years as a club, they were struggling to win titles. But after his arrival, the team won two titles within two years. The Emperor’s Cup in 2019 and the Japanese Cup in 2020. An end to their 55-year title drought. In 2020, the club also qualified for the AFC Champions League for the first time.
In 2019, Vissel Kobe announced that Iniesta would be their first captain for the upcoming seasons. Currently, he has scored 23 goals and has assisted in 17 goals.
In May 2021, the club announced that Andres Iniesta would be with their club till 2023. He agreed to be a part of their project till the age of 39. In 2018, when he signed, the deal was reportedly for $30 million. Now, it would have increased to a higher amount.