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Sports

Iniesta heads from Barcelona to Japan's Vissel Kobe

media Barcelona skipper Andres Iniesta played nearly 700 games for the first … Reuters/Paul Hanna

Former Barcelona star Andres Iniesta was unveiled on Thursday as Vissel Kobe's latest recruit. Hiroshi Mikitani, the Japanese club's owner, described the 34-year-old as a world-class player.

"I am pleased to announce that Andres Iniesta will be signing up to play with Vissel Kobe after his historic career at FC Barcelona," said Mikitani in Tokyo.

The midfielder's decision to join Kobe will boost the profile of the Japanese J-League which has been eclipsed in recent years by Chinese league clubs offering huge salaries to players entering the twilight of their careers.

"This is a very special day for me," said Iniesta. "This is a very important challenge for my career. The J-League will hopefully spread in Asia. I'd like to help with that."

Iniesta's annual salary is reported to be around 25 million euros a year and he will join the former Germany international Lukas Podolski in the western Japanese port city.

Iniesta joined Barcelona at the age of 12 and was trained in the club's academy La Masia. He progressed to the first team in his late teens and won nine La Liga crowns as well as four Champions League titles. There were also six Copa del Reys, seven Spanish Super Cups, three Club World Cups and three Uefa Super Cups.

He scored the winning goal for Spain against the Netherlands in the 2010 World Cup final and was also instrumental in Spain's European Championship titles in 2008 and 2012.

He played his 674th and final game for Barcelona in a 1-0 win over Real Sociedad on 20 May at the Camp Nou. He will represent Spain at the World Cup in Russia where they will play in Group B with Portugal, Morocco and Iran.

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