Soccer-Iniesta extends Vissel Kobe contract by two years

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AFC Champions League - Quarter Final - Vissel Kobe v Suwon Bluewings
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TOKYO (Reuters) - Former Barcelona midfielder Andres Iniesta said on Tuesday he has extended his contract with Vissel Kobe by another two years and wants to keep working towards making the Japanese side the best in Asia.

Spanish World Cup winner Iniesta, who also celebrated his 37th birthday on Tuesday, signed a three-year contract with Kobe in 2018 after leaving Barcelona, where he won nine La Liga and four Champions Leagues titles.

Since Iniesta joined the J-League team, Kobe won their first silverware at the Emperor's Cup last year and also qualified for the 2020 AFC Champions League for the first time in their 55-year history.

"I will keep persisting with taking on this challenge with the same passion and drive I felt three years ago," Iniesta said at a news conference announcing the extension.

Speaking of his aspirations to make Kobe the top team in Asia, Iniesta added that he was "excited to continue being involved in the project for the next two years".

"I strongly believe that his philosophy and his attitude will not just inspire young football athletes, but also Japan as a whole," said Hiroshi Mikitani, the CEO of Vissel Kobe owner Rakuten, at the news conference.

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(Reporting by Sakura Murakami; Editing by Peter Rutherford)