TOKYO, Japan, Apr 24 – Barcelona legend Andres Iniesta has been handed the captain’s armband at J-League outfit Vissel Kobe, the club announced, part of a shake-up following the sacking of their manager last week.
The club tweeted a picture of Iniesta holding the armband announcing him as the new captain, with Japan international defender Daigo Nishi and midfielder Hotaru Yamaguchi named as co-captains.
World Cup-winning Iniesta, who lifted 32 major trophies with Barcelona, signed for Kobe last May in a historic J-League deal worth a reported $30 million a year.
The 34-year-old plays alongside fellow veterans former Germany striker Lukas Podolski and former Barca and Spain team mate David-Villa.
Vissel were expected to mount a serious challenge for the J-League title with the 34-year-old’s arrival but are languishing in mid-table with just 10 points from eight games so far.
The mediocre start to the season cost manager Juan Manuel Lillo his job, the club announcing his departure by mutual agreement last week.
Iniesta created two of the goals in Kobe’s recent 4-2 home defeat by Hiroshima but was clearly in a foul mood when he walked off the pitch, barking “no comment” as he stormed past waiting reporters.
Podolski also hinted at some unhappiness in the dressing room, tweeting in English “stop expecting loyalty from people who can’t even give you honesty”.
Iniesta’s signing was viewed as a timely boost to the J-League, which once attracted luminaries such as Brazilian great Zico and former England striker Gary Lineker when it began in 1993 but has struggled to tempt marquee players in recent years.
And the 34-year-old has already hinted at a return to Barca in some capacity, recently telling Radio Marca: “I don’t know what role I would occupy, but in any case Barcelona can count on me.”