Japanese football fans are excitedly awaiting the arrival of Andres Iniesta, after it was reported on Friday that he would be joining Vissel Kobe at the end of the season.
Iniesta plays his final game for Barcelona against Real Sociedad on Sunday in what will be his 670th appearance for the Blaugrana, a number surpassed only by former teammate Xavi.
Since he announced that he would be leaving the Nou Camp, many rumours have circulated pertaining to the future of Iniesta, but the most concrete of these thus far suggests that he will be the latest big-name player to move to the Far East.
Lots of high profile stars have gone to China in recent years but Marca reports that Iniesta is bound for Japan, where reports are treating his arrival as an inevitability.
“The signing will be announced after Barcelona plays the game against Real Sociedad on the 20th, after which they are expected to visit Japan,” said Japanese newspaper Sports Hochi, adding that Iniesta would meet Vissel Kobe owner Hiroshi Mikitani next week.
These rumours have been fuelled by the fact that Mikitani is also the president of Rakuten, the Japanese e-commerce company that acts as Barcelona’s main shirt sponsor.
Iniesta is expected to complete the move and link up with his new teammates after this summer’s World Cup in Russia, which will also probably mark the end of his international career with Spain.
Iniesta’s 125 caps is the fifth best total for the national team, and he also scored the most important goal in Spanish football history when he hit the World Cup final winner against the Netherlands in 2010.
Despite the strong rumours, Vissel Kobe are keeping their cards close to their chest, with a club spokesman claiming he had “no information” about the signing.