Soccer / J. League

Vissel fans welcome Andres Iniesta to Kobe

Kyodo

J. League side Vissel Kobe welcomed marquee signing Andres Iniesta in a ceremony at the club’s home ground on Saturday.

The Barcelona legend delighted more than 8,000 cheering fans at Noevir Stadium in Kobe, walking a red carpet onto the pitch before demonstrating his juggling skills and kicking a ball into the stands.

Iniesta, who will wear the No. 8 jersey for Vissel, said he had lofty goals for the club, which is currently sixth in the table after 15 games of the J. League season.

“It’s a big challenge for me. I want to win the J. League and become the Asian champions with Kobe,” the 34-year-old midfielder said.

A four-time Champions League winner with Barca and a World Cup winner with Spain, Iniesta signed his contract with Vissel at a press conference in Tokyo on Thursday.

He was presented by Vissel chairman Hiroshi Mikitani, who is also CEO of online shopping giant Rakuten Inc., the current shirt sponsor of Barcelona.

A member of the Spain squad for the World Cup starting next month in Russia, Iniesta is believed to have agreed a three-year contract with Vissel worth around ¥3 billion ($27.4 million) a year.

“The reason I chose Vissel Kobe is because their project interests me. They trust me as a player and person. I want to get used to Japan as fast as possible. I love everything about the country,” Iniesta told the press conference in Tokyo.