Iniesta confirms he will leave Barcelona at end of season

Andres Iniesta held an emotional press conference at the Ciutat Esportiva on Friday to announce that this will be his final season with Barcelona.

Iniesta’s family, his manager Ernesto Valverde, and his teammates were also present at the announcement as the 33-year-old one-club man tried to hold back his tears.

It is widely reported that his next stop will be in China, with Chongqing Dangdai Lifan, handled by former Portugal manager Paulo Bento, among a host of potential suitors.

“I said I would never play against Barca so it is not going to be in Europe,” he said, as translated by BBC Sport.

“We will know at the end of the season – there are still things to talk about.”

The legendary midfielder has made 669 appearances for the Blaugrana over 16 seasons, winning a huge 31 pieces of silverware in club football. The procurement of a ninth La Liga title will be confirmed if Barcelona avoids defeat against Deportivo La Coruna on Sunday. He’s also collected two European Championships and the 2010 World Cup with Spain.

Iniesta confessed it was a difficult decision to leave Catalonia, noting how he has “spent my whole life” at Barcelona.

“A great deal of who I am, is down to Barca and La Masia – I am very thankful to them,” he added.

“I spoke to a lot of people – players, coaches – and I know what they want, but I tried to be honest with myself and the club.”

A key benefactor of Iniesta’s unique talents was Pep Guardiola, his former manager at the Camp Nou. The Manchester City tactician paid tribute to the No. 8 while speaking at his own press conference on Friday.

“I want to thank him,” Guardiola shared, per Goal’s Sam Lee. “People think managers help the players but he helped me understand the game better, just watching how he plays the game. Hopefully, he comes back to Barcelona to teach young players, or professional players, what he showed on the pitch.”