AS understands that Barcelona captain Andrés Iniesta has turned down two offers from the Chinese Super League, one of them for an eye-watering 35 million euros after tax as well as other perks, such as being excused from playing away games. For the moment, Iniesta has rejected these advances but football’s new superpower is persistent and Iniesta’s contract negotiations with Barça are yet to reach fruition: his contract expires in 2018.
Barça offer a two-year deal
Iniesta is represented by former teammate Carles Puyol and he and business partner Ramón Sostres were not convinced by the club’s first offer. Josep Maria Bartomeu has suggested a deal of two more years for Iniesta, who will be 33 in May. The financial aspect was not overly enticing – Barça are desperately trying to tighten their belts to hand Leo Messi a new deal - but for Iniesta there is a greater concern. So far this season the captain has played just 1,390 minutes, 39.6 percent of the available total and while he has been out with injury for some of that time he is concerned about his waning influence in the squad.
“I’d like to take this opportunity to say, be it one thing or another, Iniesta and Barcelona will never have any kind of problem,” he said on Thursday, adding cryptically that “this has been a different year.”
Until recently it seemed impossible to believe that Iniesta could leave Camp Nou but now the possibility that he could end his career as a two-club man is there. And there is a precedent: Xavi left in at the end of 2014-15 for Qatar after seeing his playing time drastically reduced after Luis Enrique opted to hand Ivan Rakitic the central role on a more regular basis.
The World Cup is another factor. Russia 2018 is on the horizon and Iniesta is a shoo-in for the Spain squad as long as he stays at Barça, where despite wishing to play more he will still be under the eye of Julen Lopetegui. A year in China may not be the best way to advertise his ability to help Spain in what will surely be his last major tournament.
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