Kobe (Japan) (AFP) – They played together for Barcelona for 14 years, winning everything the club game has to offer on multiple occasions.
Both have now left the Catalan club — but former midfield general Andres Iniesta, who joined Japan’s Vissel Kobe three years ago, says it will be hard to see Leo Messi play for another team.
“It will be difficult to see him in another shirt than that of Barca,” Iniesta told AFP on Tuesday as Messi few to a new adventure with Paris Saint-Germain.
“I don’t know if surprise is the right word — Leo really has represented Barca for so many years. But sometimes circumstances dictate things. I don’t have the inside track but it is a situation people will just have to deal with,” said Iniesta, who, like Messi, bade farewell to Barcelona at 34.
– ‘Transcended everything’ –
“As a player he just transcended everything. I’ve not seen a player like him — and I don’t think I ever will. You look at what he did and for so long…
Iniesta insisted that Barcelona will remain a force even without their talisman and record scorer.
“I am confident of that — new faces are coming in who will make their own major contributions,” Iniesta said as fans reeled from the news that after 17 seasons Messi was off to sign a reported two-year bumper deal with PSG.
If Messi takes up a mooted option of a third year he will be 37 — Iniesta’s age now — and the latter has proved his own longevity by agreeing a further two years Japanese extension.
“Every year it does take it out of you more and things get more complicated but as long as you really want to get out there, train and play then you keep going.”
Iniesta, who has lifted a Japanese Emperor’s Cup and Super Cup with Kobe, reflected that he knew his time at Barcelona was up when he moved on. “There comes a moment when you say, it’s over,” he said.
But he would not say if his own latest contract will be his last as a player.
Asked if he might return in some capacity to Barcelona he would only say “of course it would be great to go back. I spent many years there. It’s my home and I would like to be where one feels loved, respected and at ease.
“But I don’t know what will be my next step. I don’t know if I will be coach, sporting director or anything like that.
“I’ll only say that if you ask: would I like to go back, I’d say ‘yes’ as Barcelona is our home. Time will tell,” said Iniesta, who made almost 700 first-team appearances for Barca and 130 for Spain adding he did intend to obtain a coaching licence.
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