Mata Targets J.League Title after Joining Vissel Kobe

Reuters/John Sibley
Soccer Football – Premier League – Crystal Palace v Manchester United – Selhurst Park, London, Britain – May 22, 2022.

TOKYO (AFP-Jiji) — Former Manchester United and Spain midfielder Juan Mata set his sights on winning the J-League title on Sunday after joining Andres Iniesta’s former Japanese club Vissel Kobe.

Mata, a World Cup winner with Spain in 2010, has joined Kobe after leaving Turkey’s Galatasaray over the summer.

Iniesta left Kobe in July after five years, having joined from Barcelona in 2018.

Iniesta failed to lead the Vissel to their first J.League title during his time in Japan but Mata immediately targeted silverware after being unveiled by the club.

“With the aim of winning the first league for Vissel Kobe, I will try my best to help the team win this trophy,” the 35-year-old told reporters.

“To put one more trophy in my career and hopefully the first one of many in Japan.”

Vissel, who play later Sunday, are second in the J.League, one point behind defending champions Yokohama F-Marinos with less than 10 games of the season remaining.

Iniesta won Japan’s domestic Emperor’s Cup in 2019 and led Vissel to the semi-finals of the Asian Champions League a year later.

Iniesta and Mata’s World Cup-winning former teammate David Villa also played for Kobe for one season in 2019.

Mata said he had heard good things about the club from the pair.

“I feel really proud to sign for Vissel Kobe, a club where great players and great friends that I admire — Andres Iniesta, David Villa — have played,” he said.

“I’m very proud to follow their steps in this country.”

Mata made his name with Valencia and won the Champions League with Chelsea in 2012 before joining Manchester United two years later.

He had been without a club after leaving Galatasaray.