Andres Iniesta is leaving Barcelona after 16 seasons
Barcelona : Andres Iniesta says he will leave Barcelona after 16 trophy-filled seasons with the Spanish soccer club.
Iniesta, who turns 34 on May 11, says “this season is the last.”
Iniesta joined Barcelona’s youth academy when he was 12. He went on to become one of the best players in its history, having spent all of his senior career at Barcelona. He is their most decorated player ever along with Lionel Messi, having lifted 31 trophies, which is soon to be 32 if Barca clinch the Liga title on Sunday at Deportivo La Coruna.
The 33-year-old first initially said he could leave Barca after their 3-0 win over Chelsea in the Champions League on March 14, telling reporters he had to decide whether to accept an offer from China by the end of April.
He was given a standing ovation by both sets of supporters when he was substituted after putting in a virtuoso display and scoring in a 5-0 win over Sevilla in Saturday’s King’s Cup final.
The midfielder is one of the most loved footballers in Spain after he scored the only goal in the 2010 World Cup final when they beat the Netherlands to lift the trophy for the first time.
He is also remembered for his touching tribute to his friend, the late Espanyol player Dani Jarque, after scoring the winning goal, ripping off his shirt to reveal a t-shirt saying “Dani Jarque, always with us.”
He also won the European Championship in 2008 and 2012 and is routinely given a standing ovation at every ground he plays for Barca. He even gets a positive reception when playing at hated rivals Real Madrid.
Born in the village of Fuentealbilla in Albacete province, Iniesta moved to Barcelona’s youth academy in 1996, aged 12.
He later described the day he joined the academy as the worst moment of his life, due to the pain he felt at being apart from his family.
The sacrifice, however, paid off as he became one of the club’s best ever players.
Iniesta has made 669 appearances in all competitions for the club since making his debut aged 18 in a Champions League game at Club Bruges in October, 2002 when Louis van Gaal was Barcelona coach.