Newly-arrived Vissel Kobe midfielder Andres Iniesta professed his admiration for Japanese football and culture on Thursday after formally signing with the club.
The former Barcelona captain appeared next to chairman Hiroshi Mikitani in downtown Tokyo just hours after arriving from Spain via private jet.
“This is a very important challenge for my career,” said Iniesta. “I want to thank Mr. Mikitani and [other club officials] for their confidence and trust. I would like to help J.League spread in Asia. I look forward to getting to know and playing with my teammates.
“Japan is a country I really like, and we want to get used to the culture so that we can enjoy our time here.”
The 34-year-old, who has come to Japan twice for the FIFA Club World Cup as a member of Barcelona, is known to be a fan of Captain Tsubasa, the Japanese football comic which has inspired a generation of players around the world.
“I have a lot of respect for Japanese football and players,” he said. “I know the J.League very well as well as Japan’s national team. They have a very high level of players. I would like to contribute to the team and show my playing style.
“That’s why I’ve come to Japan, and through my play I hope to contribute to Japanese football’s development.”
Iniesta was scheduled to throw the ceremonial first pitch on Thursday night before a match between Japanese baseball’s Rakuten Golden Eagles and Orix Buffaloes at the Tokyo Dome. He will be unveiled to Vissel fans in an event at Noevir Stadium on Saturday, May 26.