Andres Iniesta has confirmed he is leaving Barcelona after 16 seasons at the club.
The 33-year-old held a special press conference to announce his exit from Camp Nou, having won 31 major trophies during his time at the club.
Iniesta joined Barcelona as a 12-year-old in 1996, working his way through La Masia before breaking into the first team in 2002-03.By his third season with the senior side, he was an integral part of the Barcelona midfield, helping lift his first La Liga title in 2004-05, and then completed the league and Champions League double the following season.
Iniesta is on track to win his ninth La Liga title this year as Barcelona currently hold an 11 point lead over Atletico Madrid and are 15 ahead of Real Madrid with just five games remaining.
The midfielder confirmed that the 2017-18 season would be his last, announcing: “This is my last season here. I have thought my decision through for a long time.
“For me, Barca is the best club in the world – this club has given me everything.
“It’s a very difficult day for me, to be here saying goodbye when I’ve spent my whole life here at Barcelona.
“A great deal of who I am, is down to Barca and La Masia – I am very thankful to them.”
He lifted a sixth Copa del Rey title in April, receiving a standing ovation as he was substituted in what proved to be an emotional farewell ahead of the official confirmation of his exit.Since then, he has received praise from former team-mates, opponents and football dignitaries, with club president Josep Maria Bartomeu hailing him as Barcelona’s most important player of the last decade.
“From 2004 until now, he has been the most important player we have had because he has been in every coach’s project since [Frank] Rijkaard,” Bartomeu told El Larguero.
Iniesta has been linked with a move to China, but reports in England have also speculated that his next move could be to Arsenal or Manchester City, with PSG also a possible destination.