Barcelona legend Andres Iniesta’s decision to join Vissel Kobe could make the J. League a serious option for the world’s top players, former Shimizu S-Pulse manager Steve Perryman said.
The 34-year-old Spanish World Cup winner, who lifted 32 major trophies at Barca and made over 600 appearances for the Catalan giants, completed a big-money move to on Thursday after bidding a tearful farewell to Nou Camp last weekend.
Iniesta’s Far East move will have been noted by players who might hitherto have considered China a more lucrative destination, Perryman said in an interview.
“As soon as a top player like Iniesta decides to go to Japan it becomes an option for other people,” said the former Tottenham Hotspur captain, who coached S-Pulse and Kashiwa Reysol between 1996 to 2002.
“It gives the J. League credibility but it’s about what Iniesta brings with him in terms of his ethos and work ethic,” added Perryman.
“You want people to lead in the right manner and history tells you that this man does things the right way.”
Perryman moved to Japan in 1996 as assistant coach to Argentine Ossie Ardiles at S-Pulse.
The former Spurs teammates briefly crossed swords with Arsene Wenger — then manager at Nagoya Grampus Eight —in a fledgling J. League still buzzing after its launch in 1993 when the likes of Zico and Gary Lineker played out their careers there.
“It was a league that was looking to be led and the timing for both Wenger and Japan was brilliant,” recalled Perryman, who took over as Shimizu manager in 1999.
“Wenger was perfect. He was a winner.”
Perryman expects Iniesta to have as big an impact as the Frenchman on a J. League that has struggled to attract marquee players in recent years.
“Football is about risk, but I’m sure Iniesta will repay Kobe with his professional attitude,” said the 66-year-old director of football at English fourth-tier club Exeter City.
“It has to be backed up by success but I expect the other clubs are looking at that now and asking if they should enter the race for players of this quality.”
Vissel, whose billionaire owner Hiroshi Mikitani is also the CEO of Barcelona’s main sponsor Rakuten Inc., signed German World Cup winner Lukas Podolski last year.