Andres Iniesta, who won the World Cup with Spain in 2010, and four Champions League titles and nine LaLiga championships with Barcelona, is leaving Japanese club Vissel Kobe.
Iniesta announces Vissel departure "great joy and pride in the decision to come to Kobe". Declared to continue active duty, the Noesta Sapporo game on July 1st will be his last game.
Iniesta fought back tears as he announced on Thursday at a press conference that he would be leaving the club midway through the current J League season in July and indicated that he planned to continue playing, although not saying where.
Asked where he might play, he replied: '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,' he added, speaking in Spanish. '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.'
Recent reports have linked him with a stint in the Middle East, but with no details about clubs.
'It's a very emotional day after so many years,' he said. 'I tried to give my best on and off the pitch. I am very proud of that.'
The former Barcelona midfielder, who turned 39 earlier this month, joined Kobe in 2018 after a glittering career at the Catalan club where he won 30 trophies.
Iniesta joined the Japanese club in on a three-year deal, and prolonged his stay with a two-year extension. News reports indicate his reason for leaving is because he wants more playing time.
Iniesta just turned 39 and made the announcement at a club news conference in the western city of Kobe.
It was Iniesta who scored the winning goal in extra time in the 116th minute of the 2010 World Cup 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. He repeatedly said '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.
The J League club confirmed the news Iniesta would be departing shortly after.
'We regret to announce the departure of Andres Iniesta from our club,' Kobe said in a statement.
'For five years since joining, we express our heartfelt gratitude to Iniesta, who has made significant contributions to Vissel Kobe.'
Iniesta will leave Kobe after their home match against Consadole Sapporo at Noevir Stadium on July 1. The club are three points clear after 14 games.
He has made 133 appearances for Kobe so far, winning the 2019 Emperor's Cup and the Japanese Super Cup in 2020.