Iniesta move to Chongqing up in the air

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Andres Iniesta is leaving Barcelona at the end of this season. But the club where he was rumored to sign is now saying publicly that he isn’t joining “as a player.”

A statement from Chinese Super League club Chongqing Dangdai Lifan said that contrary to rumors and reports, the club did not have any immediate plans to sign Iniesta. Recent reports out of Spain stated that Chongquing Dangdai Lifan had offered Iniesta a three-year, $96.5 million contract, as well as agreeing to just 50 percent of Iniesta’s image rights and buying six million bottles of his personal wine label.

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The statement from Chongqing says the club is committed to spending rationally, especially investing at the youth levels of the club to better develop players for the first team. Manager Paulo Bento’s side, which is made up of mostly Chinese players along with a few Brazilians and an Argentine, is currently sitting in 10th place with just 11 points after nine games.

This latest statement doesn’t ultimately mean that Iniesta won’t end up signing with Chongqing, or that he won’t end up joining another team. But it increases speculation and opens a door for Iniesta to move to another club in Europe, perhaps Manchester City, or whether he decides to join a club in North America or the Middle East.

It’s also possible that Iniesta ends up retiring as a player and a one-club man, and joins Chongqing as a technical director or coach, where he can still take advantage of his marketable image rights.

Either way, it’s a PR boost to Chongqing, who went from being likely unknown to most people outside of East Asia to a household name, just by being associated with Iniesta.