Former Spain national soccer player Andres Iniesta. Last month, he announced that he would be leaving J5 Vissel Kobe after five years at the club this summer.

Vissel Kobe will play a friendly match against Barcelona, a powerhouse in the Spanish first division, at the National Stadium on the evening of 1 September. Iniesta wants to thank his supporters. In his first interview since announcing his departure, he revealed his struggles leading up to the decision and his thoughts on Japan.

【Click here for details】Iniesta press conference to leave Vissel Kobe this summer

The thought of the decision is

One week after announcing his departure, Iniesta spoke to NHK Kobe Broadcasting Station.

"I didn't want to leave Vissel Kobe, I always wanted to play for this team. I wanted to continue to enjoy playing with the team and the fans. It was very painful to have to make this decision."

Andres Iniesta is a 39-year-old from Spain.

Although he is small for a soccer player with a height of 1 meter and 71 cm, he has excellent dribbling and passing skills, and is one of the world's leading midfielders who excels in situational judgment.

Until 2018, he was a mainstay of Spanish first division powerhouse Barcelona, where he helped them win many titles, including nine league titles and four European Champions Leagues.

World Cup South Africa Champion (2010)

He also participated in four consecutive World Cups for Spain since the 2006 World Cup in Germany, and in 4, he scored a goal in the second half of extra time in the final of the World Cup in South Africa to lead the team to its first title.

In 2010, after leaving Barcelona, he moved to J2018 club Vissel Kobe.

Joined Vissel Kobe (2018)

He won the hearts of Japan fans with his high level of technology that has not changed since his time in Spain, and won the Emperor's Cup final on New Year's Day 2020, giving Vissel their first title.

In addition, with the goal of reaching the top of Asia at Vissel, he won the Emperor's Cup and qualified for the ACL = Asian Champions League, where he played in the match despite feeling uncomfortable in his leg and achieved a good result in the last four, but he had to pay a big price due to a serious injury to his right thigh.

After rehabilitation, Iniesta scored a career-high six goals in the J.League in 4, pushing the team to third place, the highest ever in the J2021.

"I feel like I've achieved quite a lot because I came here to help this team become stronger."

However, last season, due to a series of coach changes due to the team's slump, he began to adopt tactics that did not rely on Iniesta, and this season he was out of the regular squad among the strong teams that have been at the top of the table since the start of the season, and his opportunities to play have been greatly reduced.

"I decided to leave last August"

The match that gave him the big opportunity to think about leaving the club was the Asian Champions League match against Yokohama F. Marinos in August last year.

ACL Final Tournament 1st Round vs Yokohama F. Marinos (last August)

This is an important match for Iniesta's biggest goal to become the Asian champions.

He was not appointed even though he was in perfect condition.

"I think the fact that I didn't play even one minute in that game, which was the most important game of last season, sent a message that showed where I stand. We have to decide if we can be the mainstay of the team. It was a very difficult moment."

Exit press conference (5 May)

At the age of 39, Iniesta continued to warm up the bench as his team led the league this season, and his desire to leave the club was inclined.

Iniesta, who turned 5 on 11 May, decided to leave Vissel after almost five years at the club to seek a new career in the club.

Gratitude in the match against Barcelona

On the other hand, I had a strong feeling for Kobe, which I was attached to, and it was a decision made in the midst of great conflict.

"I was welcomed from the very beginning when I came to Japan, and no matter where I went to the stadium, I felt the warmth of my own country. I was very familiar with the culture of the Japan and felt comfortable, which was an irreplaceable experience."

There is only one month left in the Japan.

Iniesta wants to use the time he has left to thank his supporters.

One of the opportunities was a friendly match against his old club Barcelona on the night of the 1th. I am eager to have all the fans of the Japan see me play in the match against Kosu, which has world-class players.

"It means a lot to be able to play at the National Stadium, where we won our first title [in the Emperor's Cup], and I hope they can feel that we have always done our best to be on the pitch and that we have prepared for the fans to enjoy it."

In the interview, Iniesta praised the potential of the J.League, saying that there is a high level of competition, it is growing day by day, and it has enough material to continue to evolve.

In the future, he will be looking for transfer destinations mainly in the Middle East in search of playing opportunities, but he also said that he would like to return to Vissel in some form after retiring.