Iniesta ready for face-off against ex-team Barcelona

Vissel Kobe's Andres Iniesta, right, and FC Barcelona's Hiroki Abe at Noevir Stadium in Kobe, western Japan, Friday, July 26, 2019. (AP)
Updated 26 July 2019

Iniesta ready for face-off against ex-team Barcelona

  • “We all feel that it is such an honor to play Barca,” says the World Cup-winning Spaniard
  • Iniesta signed for Kobe last May

KOBE, Japan: Barcelona legend Andres Iniesta is looking forward to taking on his former teammates when his Vissel Kobe meets Barcelona this weekend for a friendly, saying Friday the face-off will be “an honor.”
The match Saturday in the Japanese city of Kobe will be a reunion of sorts, with Barcelona’s current line-up facing ex-teammates Iniesta, David Villa and Sergi Samper, all now Vissel players.
It will be the first time Iniesta has met his former team on the pitch.
“We all feel that it is such an honor to play Barca,” Iniesta told reporters through a Japanese translator.
“The team, Barcelona, is special... It will be a very important match for us,” he said.
World Cup-winning Iniesta, who lifted 32 major trophies with Barcelona, signed for Kobe last May in a historic J-League deal worth a reported $30 million a year. The 34-year-old was appointed the team’s captain in April.
The friendly is Barca’s last match in Japan before they head home, and midfielder Sergio Busquets said the chance to meet Iniesta on the pitch “means a lot” to the players.
“Now he is in Japan and having new experiences. But it does not change the fact that he is a very important friend still,” Busquets said.
“Now I am giving him these kind words, but tomorrow on the pitch I won’t be able to be like this. We will fight with full strength.”
The match comes after Chelsea defeated Barcelona 2-1 in their friendly in Saitama north of Tokyo earlier this week in a game that saw the unofficial debuts of World Cup-winning French striker Antoine Griezmann and former Ajax midfielder Frenkie de Jong.
Manager Ernesto Valverde said he wanted to see the new arrivals getting used to playing with the team and hoped for a better result for Saturday’s match.
“I’m sure you saw the game the other day, in which they both played. I want them to play better than that with other players,” he said.
Defender Gerard Pique will not play on Saturday as a precaution due to discomfort in his left thigh, Valverde said.
Iniesta’s signing was viewed as a timely boost to the J-League, which once attracted luminaries such as Brazilian great Zico and former England striker Gary Lineker when it began in 1993 but has struggled to tempt marquee players in recent years.


Premier League accused of ‘moral vacuum’ as clubs cut staff wages

Updated 01 April 2020

Premier League accused of ‘moral vacuum’ as clubs cut staff wages

  • Last year’s Champions League finalists Tottenham as well as Newcastle and Norwich have faced a backlash for using the British government’s furlough scheme
  • The squad of Italian champions Juventus, including Cristiano Ronaldo, have agreed to have their wages stopped for four months

LONDON: Premier League clubs have been accused of living in a “moral vacuum,” with players urged to take their share of the financial hit from the coronavirus pandemic as non-playing staff begin to feel the pinch.
Last year’s Champions League finalists Tottenham as well as Newcastle and Norwich have faced a backlash for using the British government’s furlough scheme, which will guarantee 80 percent of employees’ income up to a maximum of £2,500 ($3,000) a month.
“It sticks in the throat,” said lawmaker Julian Knight, who chairs the Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, referring to the use of public funds to prop up wage bills.
“This exposes the crazy economics in English football and the moral vacuum at its center.”
The Times said the elite should not be a “drain on the exchequer.”
“(The) furlough scheme is for clubs lower down the pyramid enduring the cash-flow crisis without gate receipts, not by the likes of Spurs and Newcastle United,” the paper said in a comment piece.
That £2,500 sum would be a drop in the ocean for many Premier League stars, yet there has so far been no agreement on wage cuts or deferrals for players, unlike the situation at other top European clubs such as Juventus and Barcelona.
Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy said he hoped discussions between the Premier League and players’ and managers’ representatives would “result in players and coaches doing their bit for the football eco-system.”
Levy is in the firing line despite taking a 20 percent cut in salary for the next two months.
On Tuesday he announced a 20 percent cut for 550 non-playing staff on the same day it was revealed he was paid £7 million last season, including a £3 million bonus for the completion of the club’s new stadium, which ran well over time and budget.
Players at Barcelona have taken a 70 percent pay cut during Spain’s state of emergency and will make additional contributions to ensure other employees receive full wages.
The squad of Italian champions Juventus, including Cristiano Ronaldo, have agreed to have their wages stopped for four months while players at German giants Bayern Munich accepted a 20 percent pay cut.
“Clearly, when players at Barcelona, or Juventus voluntarily, or some German clubs voluntarily enter into these agreements with their clubs, then good on them,” said FIFPro general secretary Jonas Baer-Hoffmann.
“Where the players have the means and they step forward I think that shows very much that they understand what is happening right now and frankly we will be seeing more of that.”
The chasm in player earnings between the top end of the game and the lower leagues, and even within the same clubs, complicates the role of players’ unions in finding common ground.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan told the BBC that top-flight players should take the hit.
He said: “Highly paid football players are people who can carry the greatest burden and they should be the first one to, with respect, sacrifice their salary, rather than the person selling the program or the person who does catering.”
Players do not want to be the fall guys in a crisis only for clubs to behave irresponsibly when their income returns.
“If a club is doing deferrals then the regulations state that they would be embargoed from signing any players,” said PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor.
“It’s ridiculous to have clubs deferring their obligations to players and then making big-money transfer signings.”
Transfer talk tends to fill the void during the summer football break, but that is far from the minds of most executives just trying to ensure their clubs are still standing in a few months’ time.
“When I read or hear stories about player transfers this summer like nothing has happened, people need to wake up to the enormity of what is happening around us,” said Levy.