Former Spain and Barcelona great Andres Iniesta announced Thursday he will leave J-League side Vissel Kobe during the current season.

The 39-year-old midfielder will play his final home game for Kobe on July 1 against Consadole Sapporo at Noevir Stadium.

Speaking at a press conference in Kobe, a tearful Iniesta ruled out retirement but said he was unsure of his next move.

Andres Iniesta attends a press conference in Kobe, western Japan, on May 25, 2023, to announce his departure from Vissel Kobe. (Kyodo)

"I want to continue playing and decided it was best for me to leave here in order to do that," said Iniesta, who has made just a handful of appearances off the bench this season.

A World Cup champion with Spain in 2010 and winner of a multitude of domestic and European titles with Barcelona, Iniesta made waves with his transfer to Kobe in July 2018, becoming one of the biggest overseas stars to play football in Japan in recent times.

He helped Vissel claim their first major trophy, the Emperor's Cup, on New Year's Day in 2020.

But the western Japan club backed by Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten battled to avoid relegation last season and replaced a succession of managers before finishing 13th in the 18-team J-League first division.

Iniesta, whose departure was revealed by a source earlier this month, said leaving Vissel was "one of the hardest decisions of my career."

The player, regarded as one of the best of his generation, has been linked with potential moves to the Middle East or U.S.-based Major League Soccer, as well as a non-playing role with Barcelona.

He plans to play for Vissel in a friendly against Barcelona at Tokyo's National Stadium on June 6.

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