Andres Iniesta has agreed a new two-year contract with J1 League side Vissel Kobe. The Japanese club announced on Tuesday, Iniesta’s 37th birthday, that he was extending his deal until 2023.
Iniesta moved to Japan in 2018 after a glittering 22-year career with Barcelona came to an end. The midfielder helped Vissel Kobe win the Emperor’s Cup final on January 1 last year and qualify for the AFC Champions League for the first time. They also won the Japanese Super Cup in February 2020. “I’m still very motivated to continue this project,” Iniesta told reporters. “I had a strong feeling when I came here three years ago, and I still have that same feeling now.” Iniesta, who scored the winning goal for Spain in the 2010 World Cup final, won 30 major trophies in his storied career for Barca including nine LaLiga titles and four Champions Leagues. Vissel Kobe were purchased in 2014 by the billionaire Hiroshi Mikitani, whose e-commerce company Rakuten are major Barça sponsors. After inconsistent results and tensions behind the scenes amid four changes of head coach, Vissel Kobe managed to reach the semi-finals of the AFC Champions League after the competition resumed following the coronavirus pandemic. They were beaten 2-1 by eventual champions Ulsan Hydunai, with Iniesta sidelined due to a thigh injury. “There have been some tough times over the past three years… but I realise we’ve made history with a first title and ACL appearance,” Iniesta said. “From myself and my family, I want to thank the people of Kobe and Japan. With their love, respect and hospitality, this place has really become our home.”