Spanish media: Vissel Kobe to sign Andres Iniesta

Barcelona captain Andres Iniesta could announce Vissel Kobe as his next destination later this month, according to reports on Tuesday morning by several Spanish newspapers.

According to Cadena Ser, Vissel Kobe chairman and Hiroshi Mikitani personally attended Sunday’s 2-2 Clasico draw between Barcelona and Real Madrid as he sought to bring a close to negotiation. Mikitani’s company, Japanese e-commerce giants Rakuten, are in the first of a four-year uniform sponsorship deal with the Blaugrana worth €55 million per year.

The reported agreement will see the Spanish midfielder paid an annual salary of €25 million over three years. It also involves Bodega Iniesta, the player’s winery located in the Spanish village of Fuentealbilla.

Iniesta could make his Vissel debut alongside former Arsenal and Bayern Munich star Lukas Podolski as early as July 22, when the club will host Shonan Bellmare in their first match following the opening of the summer transfer window.

The news marks an abrupt shift from recent narratives, which have tracked the pursuit of Iniesta by Chinese Super League side Chongqing Lifan. On Monday night, the club took themselves out of the race with a statement promising to “adhere to rational investment (strategies),” a nod to heightened sensitivity toward free-wheeling spending by Chinese clubs.

But a move to Japan may not be set in stone, with Spain’s Sport reporting that Iniesta would prefer a move to Australia. A-League chairman Greg O’Rourke announced last week that the league will re-open its marquee player fund in an effort to bring bigger names to the 10-team league, which struggled this season with a drop in attendance and controversy over the introduction of Video Assistant Refereeing.