Iniesta leaving Barcelona after 16 seasons

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Andres Iniesta is leaving Barcelona after 16 trophy-filled seasons with the Spanish soccer club.

“This season is the last,” Iniesta announced on Friday in an emotional news conference attended by most of his teammates, his family, and club executives.

After regaining his composure, he added, “I have spent all my life here at this club and it is not easy to leave.

“The club has placed its confidence in me and considered me a player who is honest with myself and the club, and I said that if I am not able to give it all to my club that has given everything to me that I wouldn’t be happy.”

Iniesta, who turns 34 on May 11, said he intends to continue playing but did not reveal what his next club will be. Local media report he is going to a Chinese club.

“I have always said that I would never compete against my club, so all the options outside Europe are open,” Iniesta said. “When the season is over we will know my choice.”

Iniesta joined Barcelona’s youth academy when he was 12. He went on to become one of the best players in its history, helping the team win 31 titles — a club record he shares with Lionel Messi.

After winning the Copa del Rey with a goal last weekend, Iniesta is expected to get one more trophy with Barcelona on the cusp of clinching the Spanish league title.

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