Barcelona legend and World Cup winner, Andres Iniesta, revealed on Thursday that he will be leaving Japanese club Vissel Kobe ahead of schedule.
Despite being contracted until the end of the year, the 39-year-old midfielder tearfully announced his departure in July due to his limited playing time this season.
Iniesta, who has only made three substitute appearances totalling 38 minutes this term, expressed his desire to keep playing and ruled out retirement.
While he remains uncertain about his next move, speculations have linked him to a potential non-playing role at Barcelona, the club where he spent the majority of his illustrious career.
The Spanish maestro, widely regarded as one of the greatest players of his generation, aims to finish his time with Vissel Kobe appropriately before exploring his options for the future.
Wiping away tears during the press conference, Iniesta said, "I want to keep playing and then retire while I'm still active.
"That's difficult for me to do here, so I want to find a place where I can eventually retire."
Iniesta joined Vissel Kobe in 2018 after an impressive stint at Barcelona, where he amassed over 600 appearances, won the UEFA Champions League four times, and claimed nine LaLiga titles.
His initial three-year deal with Vissel, reportedly earning him an annual salary of $30 million, was extended in May 2021.
During his time in Japan, Iniesta led Vissel Kobe to victory in Japan's domestic Emperor's Cup in 2019 and guided the team to the semifinals of the Asian Champions League a year later.
However, the club faced a challenging season, battling relegation and undergoing multiple coaching changes before ultimately finishing 13th in the 18-team division.
Leaving Vissel Kobe has been described by Iniesta as "one of the hardest decisions of my career."
Expressing his disappointment at not being able to retire from the club, he stated, "For the past few months, I've trained hard with the intention of contributing to the team, but I started to feel that the coach had different priorities."