Spain midfielder Andres Iniesta has signed for Japanese side Vissel Kobe after bringing the curtain down on his brilliant Barcelona career.
The 34-year-old playmaker left the Catalan giants after landing his ninth LaLiga title with the club. He also secured a host of other honours, including four Champions League triumphs.
“I am pleased to announce today that Andres Iniesta will be signing up to play with Vissel Kobe after his historic career at FC Barcelona,” the club’s owner Hiroshi Mikitani told reporters in Tokyo.
A World Cup winner with Spain in 2010, Iniesta captained Barcelona during his final three seasons at the club.
Vissel Kobe, coached by Takayuki Yoshida, sit sixth in the Japanese top flight after 15 games of their season, already 15 points behind runaway leaders Sanfrecce Hiroshima.
Diego Maradona has promised that Emirati players will follow him to Dynamo Brest, saying the club’s fans shouldn’t be ‘surprised’ if three footballers from the Emirates join the Belarusian side ‘tomorrow’.
The 1986 World Cup winner was officially unveiled as the club’s new chairman on a three-year deal just weeks after leaving his position as Fujairah coach, following their failure to secure automatic promotion to the Arabian Gulf League.
It was his second coaching stint in the UAE following a dismal spell in charge of Al Wasl where he was sacked after 14 months in 2012.
And after seeing enough talent during his stay in the UAE, the long-term Dubai resident insists there’s a strong possibility that players from the country could also make the switch to Eastern European nation Belarus.
“Whether they are Emirati, Italian or Spanish, I have a lot of love for the players that I have coached, so don’t be surprised if tomorrow we have three Emirati players in my team,” the 57-year-old told media at the Emirates Palace hotel late on Tuesday night. “Because all the work my boys at Fujairah have done they conquered my heart and this is a lot.
“When we went to Holland we were a random group, like a high school group, but when we came back to Fujairah we came with an idea of how we wanted to play football. That’s why I’m not afraid of the challenge and of this challenge. Definitely I will take Emirati players.”
The former Barcelona and Napoli star was unable to deliver automatic promotion for the Wolves, who later booked their spot in the AGL via the play-offs. And while he criticised the club for the manner in which they announced his exit, Fujairah and the UAE will always be in his heart.
“I was kicked from Al Wasl because of a tweet. And from Fujairah the same thing happened – because of a tweet they sent me home,” he said.
“I want to congratulate my boys at Fujairah and not anyone else. We fought hard and they wanted to be in the Arabian Gulf League. I have encountered many good memories. I travelled 150km to go from my home to Fujairah and back again to go home every day and the boys of Fujairah are in my heart always.”
While Maradona insisted he will always consider himself an “Emirati citizen”, he also paid tribute to the UAE and hoped he could one day work with Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs.
“It has been a beautiful and long journey that I have experienced in this country and the people with whom I have shared deep love and appreciation. I see that they have greatly influenced my career both in terms of sport and social life,” he said.
“A very important point I would like to stress on is the vision of HH Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed with Manchester City. They have become a world power in football. I wish, someday, I co-operate with HH Sheikh Mansour.”
The ex-Argentina coach will begin his new role with Dynamo Brest after the World Cup in the summer and will be tasked in making the side a competitive force in Belarus and Europe. Among his duties will be dealing with first-team matters and the club’s development.
After eight games of the 2018 season, the club lie eighth in the Belarusian league but last week won the Belarus Cup that booked them a place in the qualifying round of the Europa League.
Maradona will analyse the first-team squad before deciding whether to enter the transfer market for reinforcements.
“First of all, we need to see what I’m lacking in the team,” he added. “Once I will see the players on the pitch, from there I will take my conclusions and in which positions I will need a player.”
Just days after leaving as head coach at Fujairah, Diego Maradona found himself with another job in a move that really came out from nowhere. On Tuesday night, the 1986 World Cup winner was officially unveiled to the media in Abu Dhabi as his new role as the club chairman of Dynamo Brest. Yes, you might be scratching your heads where that is but it’s a side that compete in the top-flight of the Belarusian league.
As strange as it may seem, Maradona isn’t the only one to have taken the decision that left the sporting world baffled by their move.
Here, we look at five bizarre appointments in sport.
SVEN GORAN ERIKSSON TO NOTTS COUNTY
With spells in the top-flight in Italy and the England and Mexico national teams, Sven Goran Eriksson ended up in lower league with Notts County in July 2009. The Swede had been attracted by the club consortium’s ambitions to take the world’s oldest club to the Premier League. Sol Campbell and Kasper Schmieichal arrived but large debts and unpaid tax bills meant Eriksson’s stay lasted just seven months.
EDGAR DAVIDS TO BARNET
Barnet bosses wanted someone local and with plenty of experience to take charge and Edgar Davids was that man. After spells with Crystal Palace and Tottenham, the Dutchman continued to live in north London and although he had plenty of European experience under his belt, even that could not stop him saving the Bees from relegation on goal difference. Handed himself the ‘No.1 shirt’ before resigning in January 2014.
GARY NEVILLE TO VALENCIA
The football pundit swapped the television studios for the Mestalla in December 2015 in a move that stunned English and Spanish football. Neville’s only coaching experience came with England as an assistant but answered Peter Lim’s SOS call to step in the hot seat of the La Liga side. With a language barrier, his lack of coaching experienced showed as Los Che won 10 of 28 matches before being given the boot in March 2016.
CLIVE WOODWARD TO SOUTHAMPTON
When the name Clive Woodward springs to mind, you would think a 2003 World Cup-winning coach. Not the performance director of Southampton Football Club. That exactly what happened in 2005 when the ex-England rugby coach arrived at the south coast. Manager Harry Redknapp wasn’t happy and while he left, Woodward went on to become the club’s director of football before being shown the door eight months’ later.
CARLOS TEVEZ AND JAVIER MASCHERANO TO WEST HAM
In one of the Premier League’s most sensational deadline day transfers, Javier Mascherano and Carlos Tevez made the move from Corinthians to West Ham that left all fans scratching their hands on how it came about. Nobody was sure what the fee was at the time or whether Jia Joorabchian or Corinthians held their registration at the time. Carlos Tevez went on to save the Hammers before moving to Manchester United that summer.