Perhaps the most audacious signing of the summer market is that of Japan’s Vissel Kobe, who are splashing out a cool $30 million/year for the services of now-former Barcelona captain Andres Iniesta.
But at what cost? While A-League fans will be bemoaning the fact that Fox Sports’ AU$3m war chest wasn’t enough to bring the Spaniard down to Sydney or Adelaide, the biggest victim in all of this may be poor Hirotaka Mita, the first-year Vissel player whose shirt was ripped off his back in a press conference streamed around the world.
The 27-year-old central midfielder, whose career began with three seasons at FC Tokyo followed by two more at Vegalta Sendai, was considered a solid mid-winter pickup for the Noevir Stadium residents. He’d impressed so far this season with three goals from 15 appearances, including this blistering volley last month against defending champions Kawasaski Frontale:
Mita wore the No. 8 shirt at Vissel, which he had also worn in his last two seasons at Tokyo (in Sendai he settled for #18). But on Thursday, a different player held the No. 8:
The J.League has until now forbidden clubs from changing player numbers in the middle of the season, but has apparently changed tack after discussions with Vissel officials and is considering revisions to the rule in question.
Reporting by Sponichi on Friday morning indicated that Iniesta had reached a gentleman’s agreement with Mita for the number, calling the player directly to thank him (and, one would hope, say that a very nice Rolex was on the way). It’s also likely that, this being Japan, fans who have purchased Mita’s No. 8 shirt will be given some means to trade in for his new number.
Meanwhile, one enterprising Tokyo-based wine dealer is offering Iniesta’s uniform together with wine from his Bodega Iniesta vineyard.