Iniesta confirms Barcelona departure

Barcelona and Spain great Andres Iniesta has confirmed he will leave Camp Nou at the end of this season, ending a career-long association with the LaLiga giants.

Iniesta signed a "lifetime" contract with Barca last October but speculation has mounted over recent weeks regarding the 33-year-old midfielder's future and a mooted move to the Chinese Super League.

A superb goal in the Blaugrana's 5-0 Copa del Rey final demolition of Sevilla on Saturday was followed by an emotional ovation as Iniesta was substituted in the closing stages of the match at the Wanda Metropolitano.

At a media conference on Friday at the club's training centre, Iniesta made news of his pending departure official.

"This is my last season here," he tearfully told an audience featuring his Barcelona team-mates. "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."

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Iniesta did not reveal who his next club will be, although he is widely expected to seal a move to CSL outfit Chongqing Lifan.

On his future, he added: "We'll know that when the season ends. There are still things to work out, different things.

"I said I would never play against Barca so it's not going to be in Europe. We will know at the end of the season."

Since making his debut in a Champions League match against Club Brugge as an 18-year-old in October 2002, Iniesta has clocked up 669 appearances across all competitions for Barca, the coolly dispatched effort against Sevilla his 57th goal.

The most famous strike of the playmaker's career will indisputably remain his extra-time winner as Spain beat Netherlands 1-0 in Johannesburg to lift the World Cup in 2010.

Iniesta also inspired Spain's golden generation to glory at Euro 2008 and Euro 2012. He was named player of the tournament after a man-of-the-match showing in the later 4-0 final thrashing of Italy.

A mercurial contemporary of Lionel Messi and Xavi, Iniesta's trophy haul for Barcelona is impressively vast. A ninth LaLiga title is likely to be confirmed this weekend – a 35th career trophy for club and country, hot on the heels of a sixth Copa for the four-time Champions League winner.

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