ANDRES INIESTA has announced he will leave Barcelona at the end of the season in the wake of prolonged speculation over his future.
Andres Iniesta Barcelona
Andres Iniesta was won 31 trophies during his time at Barcelona
The 33-year-old has enjoyed a stellar career since making his senior Barcelona debut back in 2002.
And he has now confirmed he will leave the Nou Camp when the 2017/18 campaign draws to a close.
"This is my last season here," Iniesta said on Friday. "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 Barça and La Masia - I am very thankful to them.
"To all Cules [Barcelona fans], who have seen me grown as a player, and accompanied me in the good and bad times, thank you."
Iniesta won the 31st trophy of his club-career when Barcelona secured the Copa del Rey two weeks ago.
And he will be hoping to guide them to his ninth La Liga title as the season draws to a close.
Speculation over the past year has seen linked Iniesta with a move to the mega-money Chinese Super League.
Andres Iniesta Barcelona Sevilla Copa del Rey
Andres Iniesta is expected to pass the Barcelona captaincy on to Lionel Messi in the summer
Although Manchester City, where he could reunited with Pep Guardiola, is thought to be an option too.
Iniesta’s Spain and former Barcelona team-mate Cesc Fabregas hailed the playmaker ahead of his announcement.
"Whatever he decides, Andres Iniesta was a great football player," he said.
"When we won the World Cup, Iniesta played very well.
"Along with Xavi, Andres is the only Spaniard who could have won a Ballon d'Or."
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Iniesta insists he's not concerned by never being awarded the prestigious Ballon d'Or though.
"Not winning the Ballon d'Or isn't a thorn in my side or something which I regret," he added.
"The magic I've been through as a player is enough for me, that's what I have gained happiness from."
Nonetheless, Iniesta will go down as one of the most talented players of his generation.
And atop his club success he can look back on winning the World Cup and two European Championship titles with Spain.
Andres Iniesta teared up as he revealed he will leave Barcelona in the summer
Iniesta has been Barcelona captain since fellow La Masia graduate Xavi left the Nou Camp in 2015.
Lionel Messi is expected to inherit the armband, with Gerard Pique to be his deputy.
Iniesta opened up about having played alongside the talismanic Argentinian.
"For me, it's been an honour and a privilege to play in so many games with Messi because there is no one quite like him.
"It's been magic, a one-off - that's the only way I can describe it."
Andres Iniesta scores incredible volley against Celtic in the Champions League
Barcelona signalled they were gearing up for Iniesta's departure in January when they signed Philippe Coutinho.
But there's no doubting the four-time Champions League winner will live long in the memory.
"I've been lucky - with all the coaches and team mates I've had in my career," he finished.
"They made me a better player and a better person.
"I'd like to be remembered as a good footballer and a good person, because when our football days are over, that's all we are - people." Source: goal.com
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