Iniesta to leave Barca; won't stay in Europe

The Barcelona pair of Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez were not present when Andres Iniesta announced he would be leaving the club at the end of the season.

FC Barcelona midfielder Andres Iniesta has confirmed his departure from the Spanish side at the end of the season.

A World Cup victor with Spain in 2010, the midfielder also has eight La Liga title and four Champions League successes to his name.

Speaking at his press conference this afternoon, the 33-year old FIFA World Cup victor with Spain announced his intention to quit the five-time champions league winners at the end of the season. "I learned a lot from him". "Finally, I want to thank the fans, who have been with me through thick and thin".

The Spanish player assured that he can't play in Europe for another club except Barcelona, which strengthens the reports that Iniesta's next movement will be to the China Super League.

In a press conference attended by members of the first team and the club's board, Iniesta said he wanted to finish at Barca "feeling useful, feeling important and still winning titles".

Then there's the small matter of scoring the victor in a World Cup final, an achievement not even Lionel Messi can rival. I wouldn't forgive myself for putting myself and the club in an uncomfortable situation.

Iniesta joined Barcelona's youth academy when he was 12.

He would not be short of suitors this summer among the world's elite clubs but Iniesta said he will leave Europe.

"I want to be remembered as a great footballer and a great person", Iniesta continued. He is pulling off the Barcelona jersey for good at the end of the season; the task of Barcelona's next No.8 is a very daunting one because of the big-sized boots being left behind.

Iniesta finished in the top three of the ballon d'or on two occasions, in 2010 and 2012.

"Barca has given me everything".

Just last weekend Iniesta lifted the latest trophy of his storied career, scoring in the 5-0 win over Sevilla in the Copa del Rey.

Spain greats Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos and Fernando Torres also expressed their admiration for Iniesta, while Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino - the former coach of Barcelona's city rivals Espanyol - added: "We were enemies for a while".

  • Steve Townsend