Barcelona legend Andres Iniesta has reportedly agreed to join J-League outfit Vissel Kobe on a three-year deal worth $30 million (£22.2 million) per season.
ESPN backed up initial reports from Spanish media outlet Cadena Ser and noted Iniesta is set to join Japanese club Vissel Kobe when he ends his 22-year tenure at the Camp Nou this summer.
A deal isn’t official yet, however, and rumours of a move to Australia continue to make the rounds as A-League head Greg O’Rourke told the Australian Associated Press .
“We will determine with (the clubs) how this is going to work—do we go out and use $3 million to go and hook one big fish, or three small ones?
“There’s some history that would say that (Alessandro) Del Piero, when he was here with (Emile) Heskey and Shinji Ono was actually quite amplifying.”
It’s no surprise interest in Iniesta—who turns 34 on Friday—has been so high, as one of modern football’s greatest icons is available to play for a team other than Barcelona for the first time.
Italian football journalist Tancredi Palmeri cited a report from Cadena Ser, which asserted it’s likely a double-your-money offer to play in Japan that’s turned Iniesta’s head away from China:
The Chinese Super League seemed favoured to recruit Iniesta, but if reports of a £22.2 million annual wage prove true, it means the playmaker stands to earn around £425,000 per week before tax.
The Blaugrana stalwart is already among Barcelona’s most respected stars but would pull level with some of the world’s highest earners on those wages, standing to earn almost £70 million if he sees out a three-year deal.
Iniesta’s influence over two decades of football at Barcelona are undeniable, and team-mates past and present have paid tribute ahead of his departure:
Former midfield comrade Xavi has played for Qatari side Al-Sadd since leaving Barca in 2015, while fellow Camp Nou alumnus David Villa has played with New York City in Major League Soccer since 2014.