Andres Iniesta to leave Barcelona after 22 years
Barcelona legend Andres Iniesta announced Friday that this will be his final season with FC Barcelona. The midfielder, who turns 34 next month, said that he will be leaving Barca after 22 years with no plans to play at a different European club. Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu, head coach Ernesto Valverde and all his teammates were present for the news conference.
Barca fans have chanted for Iniesta to stay beyond the end of the season, but the Spanish international said that he wanted to leave the club while still at the top of his game. He does not want to spend the waning years of his career being looked at as an overall detriment to the club he initially joined back in 1996 when he was 12.
Iniesta said, “This press conference is to communicate that this will be my last season at Barcelona. After 22 years here, I know what it means to be a player for the best team in the world. I know the responsibility I have as the captain and the responsibility I have to be honest with myself and the club by bringing my time at the club to an end this season.”
Barcelona are comfortably ahead of Atletico Madrid for the top spot in La Liga with just a few games left to play. With an 11-point advantage with just five games to play, it will be impossible to look for a trustworthy gambling site that gives any other club any hope whatsoever of winning the Spanish top flight this season.
Iniesta signed a lifetime contract with Barcelona earlier this season before ultimately deciding it was time to move on to the next stage of his career.
Iniesta added, “If I’d imagined how my career would end here, this is it. I leave feeling useful, feeling important, starting games and winning titles. It’s a very difficult day for me. I’ve spent my whole life here. It wasn’t easy to reach this decision. To say goodbye to what has become my home is complicated. But this is life. It’s increasingly more difficult [to maintain the same level]. I wouldn’t forgive myself for putting myself and the club in an uncomfortable situation. I don’t deserve that and the club don’t deserve it, either.”
While he does not plan to remain in Europe, Iniesta has been linked recently with a big-money move to Chongqing Lifan of the Chinese Super League. Iniesta was asked about the potential move at the news conference, but essentially gave a non-answer by saying, “The season has still not finished. There are still things to be sorted, to be talked about. I have said I will never play against Barca, so I won’t play in Europe. All options outside of Europe could be possible. My next move will be finalised when the season ends.”
Iniesta has been with Barcelona through arguably the club’s most successful run ever. He is on the verge of his ninth La Liga title with the Blaugrana, and he has helped the team win six Copa Del Rey trophies as well as four Champions League titles.
Iniesta was one of three finalists from Barcelona for the Ballon d’Or alongside teammates Xavi Hernandez and Lionel Messi. The award, which Iniesta has never won, was given to Messi.
A number of other high-profile Barca legends have called it quits in recent years, including Xavi, Dani Alves, Javier Mascherano and Carles Puyol. Iniesta was quick to suggest that his departure will not mark an end to a glorious era for Barcelona, saying, “Look at the players still here. Messi, Busquets, Pique, Jordi and more. There is plenty in place to continue the legacy. They will keep winning.”
While he’s leaving for now, Iniesta did go on to say that he would like to rejoin Barcelona in a non-playing capacity someday. He added, “It’s too soon to talk about coming back. It’s an emotional day. I’ve spent months thinking about this moment and the main thing now is to finish this season. We’re one step away from winning the league, which would complete the double. Then there’s the World Cup. I hope one day I can come back to the club, though, to keep on enjoying myself and give back everything I have learned here.”
Iniesta has scored 35 goals in 435 appearances for Barcelona thus far.