Andres Iniesta is the sixth Barcelona star to leave for Japan

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Andres Iniesta will now play in the J-League, for Vissel Kobe, a club owned by billionaire Hiroshi Mikitani, who is also the CEO of Rakuten, Barca’s shirt sponsors.

Meanwhile, Iniesta has become the sixth Barcelona player in history to join a club in Japan.

Among the Blaugrana stars who’ve made a move to Japan, the most famous name is that of Michael Laudrup, who after a two-year spell at Real Madrid went to Kobe.

Laudrup played 15 games for the Japanese side and scored five goals, after which he headed to Ajax and retired.

Txiki Beguiristain, current Manchester City Sporting Director, too made a move to Japan after leaving Deportivo La Coruna in 1997.

In frame: Carles Rexach

In frame: Carles Rexach

He played for Urawa Red Diamonds till 1999 and made 61 appearances while scoring 16 goals.

Another member of Johan Cruyff’s ‘Dream Team’, Julio Salinas headed to Japan to play for Yokohama Marinos after two short spells at Deportivo and Sporting.

Salinas was joined by Ion Andoni Goikoetxea in 1998, who did make 23 appearances but couldn’t get on the score sheet ever for the Japanese club.

Cruyff’s assistant Carles Rexach had also left Barcelona in 1998 and accepted an offer to train Yokohama Flügels.

He came back when Louis Van Gaal called him back in 1999 to become a part of Barca’s coaching staff.

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Lionel Messi reportedly wants Rafinha sold after Philippe Coutinho's impact at Barcelona

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Rafinha was loaned out by Barcelona to Inter Milan.

Lionel Messi is said to be pushing for Rafinha’s departure from the Camp Nou because he believes January arrival Philippe Coutinho is a cut above his compatriot.

The midfielder joined Inter Milan on loan from Barca in January following Coutinho’s big-money arrival from Liverpool. Inter say they’ve been impressed with the Brazilian.

However, sporting director Piero Ausilio has suggested he’ll look to negotiate with the Catalans.

The Daily Star reports that he told Premium Sport: “His (Rafinha’s) case is a unique and is exclusively an economic issue. We are very happy with Rafinha, as [we are] with [Joao] Cancelo.

Lionel Messi has been impressed by Philippe Coutinho.

Lionel Messi has been impressed by Philippe Coutinho.

“Philippe Coutinho has impressed at Barcelona. He has earned the confidence of the coaches and the fans. We know the commitment that we have with Barcelona, but until June 30 there is time to negotiate.”

Messi is reported to believe that Rafinha isn’t on the same level as Coutinho and should be offloaded.

It’s been previously suggested the Argentine ace also wants Gerard Deulofeu axed permanently. Deulofeu joined Barca less than 12 months ago but struggled to make an impact and was shipped out on loan to Premier League side Watford in January.

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Live Barcelona Blog: Lionel Messi reportedly wants Rafinha sold following Philippe Coutinho's impact at Barcelona

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Matt Jones and the rest of the Sport360 team are in place to provide you with the latest news, comment and analysis on all things Barcelona.

Our daily blog will ensure you have all the latest updates throughout the week but we want you to get involved, too.

Tell us your thoughts on what’s happening by tweeting @Sport360.

1:23pm – Lionel Messi reportedly wants Rafinha sold following Philippe Coutinho’s impact at Barcelona

Lionel Messi is said to be pushing for Rafinha’s departure from the Camp Nou because he believes January arrival Philippe Coutinho is a cut above his compatriot.

The midfielder joined Inter Milan on loan from Barca in January following Coutinho’s big-money arrival from Liverpool. Inter say they’ve been impressed with the Brazilian.

Read more on this here.

11:59am – Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli excited by talent at his disposal at World Cup, spearheaded by Lionel Messi

Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli has been discussing his plans for the World Cup, with the former Chile coach excited by the talent he will have at his disposal in Russia.

Sampaoli, of course, has Lionel Messi spearheading La Albiceleste’s quest for a first World Cup triumph in 32 years, but the little magician will be joined by a stellar cast including Angel Di Maria, Paulo Dybala, Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain to name but a few.

“Our goal is to try to take advantage of the individual quality of this group of players. I am excited with the idea,” said Sampaoli.

Watch what the coach had to say here.

Jorge Sampaoli

11:43am – Barcelona set new record for players featuring at World Cup

Barca fans will be taking a break from cheering on their team to success to get behind Spain at this summer’s World Cup.

But the Blaugrana faithful will still get their club fix in Russia as well, with plenty of their players featuring.

A total of 14 members of the Catalan club will be vying for glory at the World Cup – with Barcelona setting a new record by becoming the first club in history to have at least one player in every group at the World Cup.

Check out the players here.

10:34am – Pires warns Griezmann about pitfalls of joining Barcelona

Arsenal legend Robert Pires has warned Antoine Griezmann against joining Barcelona – claiming his fellow Frenchman will become nothing but another minnow in a sea of world-class players.

Pires, 44, believes his compatriot will face many challenges if he decides on a move to Camp Nou this summer, chief among them fighting to get in the team – something he does not have to worry about at Atletico Madrid where he is the main man.

Pires told Mirror Football Podcast: “If he wants to take a risk, to take a new challenge, he can go to Barcelona. But it is not the same team, not the same level.”

Read more on this story here.

Antoine-Griezmann-Atletico-Madrid

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