• Kyodo


Former Spain and Barcelona great Andres Iniesta hopes to finish his playing career in Japan with J. League’s Vissel Kobe, Spanish media reported Thursday.

Following rumors of interest from clubs in North America’s Major League Soccer, the 34-year-old Iniesta was quoted in the online edition of daily sports newspaper Marca as saying he intended to remain with Kobe for the remainder of his contract.

“Will I retire here? I hope so. I’ve got two years left on my contract and I don’t know if I will have the strength to continue (beyond that). We’ll see,” Iniesta told Marca.

“I like the league that I’m in, I still feel like a footballer and I want to improve. Let’s hope (I’m in Japan) for many years, but there will be a day that it will have to come to an end.”

The playmaker, considered one of the best midfielders of all time, led Kobe to the Emperor’s Cup, the club’s first major silverware, earlier this month.

With the victory, Kobe earned its first berth in Asia’s premier club tournament, the Asian Champions League.

In the wide-ranging interview, Iniesta also indicated he was open to eventually taking a coaching role with Barcelona, where he made his first-team debut as an 18-year-old in 2002.

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