Andres Iniesta wonders where Neymar would fit into Barcelona's team, while he thinks it would be "complicated" for them to appoint Jose Mourinho as coach.

Neymar was in the close season heavily linked with a return to Barca, whom he left for Paris Saint-German in a world-record €222million move in August 2017.

The Catalan giants remained interested in re-signing the Brazil international despite shelling out €120m to bring Antoine Griezmann in from Atletico Madrid.

While a move for Neymar did not materialise, the 27-year-old is reportedly still a target for Barca. However, club great Iniesta struggles to see how they would line up if he returned.

"I don't know how the negotiations went or if Ney will arrive in the future, but he'll be an important piece," Iniesta told Marca.

"I don't know how they'd fit so many high-level players together."

Speculation remains over the future of Ernesto Valverde, who signed a contract for the 2019-20 season prior to Barca's Champions League semi-final capitulation against Liverpool and Copa del Rey final defeat to Valencia.

While Mourinho has been touted for a return to Real Madrid as a successor to Zinedine Zidane, the suggestion the Portuguese could make a Camp Nou comeback, having initially worked as a translator under Bobby Robson, is not something Iniesta anticipates coming to fruition.

He said: "I'm not in the know on whether Mourinho could go to Madrid or not. To Barca, I see it as complicated."

Lionel Messi played a starring role in Barca's 5-0 victory over Real Valladolid on Tuesday.

The Argentina superstar has stated he does not want to sign a "lifetime contract" with the club and has a clause in his current deal that enables him to leave at the end of the season if he desires.

Asked if Messi's exit would see Barca encounter the same difficulties Madrid did following Cristiano Ronaldo's departure, Iniesta said: "It'll be difficult.

"But the clubs are above the players or coaches. That's how it is. Obviously, it'll be a shame, but it'll come."

Sergio Ramos became Spain's joint most-capped player on Sunday, moving level with former Real Madrid team-mate Iker Casillas.

Captain Ramos lined up for his national team for the 167th time, as they played a Euro 2020 qualifier against the Faroe Islands.

The appearance also moved him into the top 10 for the most-capped internationals ever in a list that includes only three other Europeans - Italian Gianluigi Buffon, Latvian Vitalijs Astafjevs and Casillas.

Here we profile Spain's five most-capped players.

 

Sergio Ramos - 167 caps

Ramos, 33, made his debut back as an 18-year-old against Chile in 2005, becoming the youngest player to debut for Spain in over half a century.

He was an ever-present at right-back during the World Cup triumph in 2010, won the European Championship twice with his country and is also in the top 10 of Spain's leading scorers.

Iker Casillas - 167 caps

Another to make his international bow as a teenager, Casillas was part of Spain's Euro 2000 squad having made his debut earlier that year.

Casillas became La Roja's number one at the World Cup two years later and held onto his spot between the posts until 2016.

Xavi - 133 caps

Former Barcelona midfielder Xavi was part of Spain's Olympics squad in 2000 and went on to feature at four World Cups, three European Championships and two Confederations Cups.

He received Player of the Tournament honours when Spain won Euro 2008 and was in the Team of the Tournament line-up for both the World Cup in 2010 and Euro 2012.

Andres Iniesta - 131 caps

Xavi's former Barcelona team-mate Iniesta will most fondly be remembered as the man who finally brought the World Cup to Spain after scoring the extra-time winner in the final against Netherlands in 2010.

Iniesta landed the Player of the Tournament award at Euro 2012 and continued to star for Spain until his retirement from international football after the 2018 World Cup.

Andoni Zubizarreta - 126 caps

The only player in this list not to have played for Spain this millennium, goalkeeper Zubizarreta first pulled on the La Roja jersey in 1985.

He featured in four successive World Cups for his country and retired in 1998 as Spain's most-capped player - a record that was only broken in 2011 by Casillas.

Barcelona great Andres Iniesta has revealed how his father has been the biggest influence on his professional career.

The 35-year-old established his place as one of the world's finest midfielders during a 16-year senior career at Camp Nou.

Iniesta won nine LaLiga titles - only Lionel Messi, with 10, has more - among 32 titles with Barca, for whom he registered 35 goals and 87 assists in 442 league appearances.

He also won two European Championships and the 2010 World Cup with Spain, scoring the winning goal in the final of the latter against Netherlands in Johannesburg.

His success marks quite the journey for Iniesta, who was born in the village of Fuentealbilla close to Albacete in 1984 and first joined Barca's famed La Masia academy at the age of 12.

Iniesta, now at Vissel Kobe in Japan, credits his father as the most important figure in his footballing life.

"My father was the most important figure for my career," said Iniesta, courtesy of LaLiga. "He was not my coach, not at all, but from very small I was always with him, he was the first who gave me a plastic football out on the patio of our house.

"I always listened to him. He has given me his advice. Above all, he would always tell me that the most important opinion was that of my coach. I had to do what the coach told me, and that has always been very important."

He continued: "I've always been very clear about what I wanted to do, that has always been the most important for me. The principal objective has always been to learn things to become a better player, respect those around me always. That has been my path.

"Maybe I would have done some things differently, I don't know. There are things I did well, others not so well, but that's life. When you make mistakes, you can correct them, and move forward.

Amid his numerous collective and individual titles, Iniesta ranks his debut as his top LaLiga moment.

"I had the opportunity to play for many years, to experience unique moments, winning La Liga titles, winning important games, Clasicos and others," he said. "There were difficult moments, but in general it was great. To be so long at such a high level, in the best league, was a real source of pride for me.

"As I like beginnings, my most iconic moment was my LaLiga debut against Mallorca, and then playing at the Camp Nou against Recreativo de Huelva."

He also holds fond memories of playing alongside a series of top Spain internationals during his Camp Nou days.

"Sergio Busquets, Jordi Alba, Xavi, Carles Puyol, David Villa… the good thing about football is that you meet great people and you share many things with them over many years," he said. "Some of them you stay in touch with, others you don't, but there are always great memories."

Iniesta does admit it is important to hold interests outside of football, however.

"You never have that much spare time as a footballer, and even less these days," he added. "You try and have some hobbies or pastimes, things that fill your time away from the game. The bodega [winery] that our family have had since 2010 is a very nice project. There is also the 'Mikakus' range of trainers. We try and do different social projects, things that keep you excited and interested."

Fernando Torres did not get a fitting finale to his football career as Sagan Tosu were routed 6-1 on Friday by a Vissel Kobe side led by his former Spain colleagues Andres Iniesta and David Villa.

Torres played for the final time in the J.League clash in Tosu, but his struggling side were dismantled - with friend and former team-mate Iniesta playing a central role.

The former Atletico Madrid and Liverpool superstar played the full 90 minutes but failed to find the net, with Tosu's only strike a Thomas Vermaelen own goal.

Iniesta was in fine form for Vissel, scoring a 20th-minute penalty to put the visitors 2-0 up and then playing a gorgeous pass in the build-up to Junya Tanaka's well-worked effort two minutes later.

The ex-Barcelona midfielder was later withdrawn injured, but David Villa appeared from the bench as Vissel ran riot.

Iniesta had written a letter to Torres in tribute before the match and the striker could at least be comforted by continued messages throughout and after the defeat.

Former Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard appeared in a video on the big screen at the stadium to address Torres, while Sergio Ramos led the numerous Twitter posts.

"Team-mate, opponent, friend, legend," Ramos wrote. "A kid from Fuenlabrada who won everything while always remaining the same 'Nino'."

Torres addressed the crowd with a speech after the match, thanking the club and fans for their attitude and welcoming nature during his time in Japan.

"Even when in the danger of being relegated last year, everyone continued to be professional and hard-working," Torres told the crowd. "They kept their positive attitude no matter how hard things were.

"I really learned a lot from everyone and I hope everyone learned something from me, even a little bit. I hope I can move forward.

"Thanks to all of Japan for accepting our family. Please know that there is a wonderful country called Japan."

Andres Iniesta penned an emotional letter to Fernando Torres as the two prepared to face one another a final time in the Sagan Tosu striker's last professional match.

Torres has announced he will retire from football following Friday's fixture between his Sagan side and Iniesta's Vissel Kobe.

The Spain greats enjoyed international success at the 2010 World Cup and two European Championships, having played together since representing their country at youth level.

Iniesta wrote a lengthy letter to Torres before Friday's game, in which the playmaker netted a penalty before going off injured as Vissel surged into a 3-0 half-time lead, published in El Mundo.

"How weird. Don't tell me it's not, Fernando. It's very strange, I would say beautifully strange," he wrote.

"Here we are both about to play your last game as a professional. I still have some left, but here we are on the other side of the world. It is as if life brought us to Japan to say goodbye.

"Football joined us more than 20 years ago when we were children. Well, you will be forever El Nino. And it will never separate us."

Reflecting on their continued success with Spain while representing rival clubs, Iniesta goes on: "Separated, but always together - and until the last moment.

"Above shirts or clubs, we lived in different cities - you in Madrid and I in Barcelona - but we were never enemies, simply friends who wore a different shirt."

Iniesta, who plays with fellow former Spain star David Villa in Japan, concluded: "It has been a wonderful trip. It has taken us to all corners of the world.

"And look where we are today: in Tosu, you and I playing a football game, one more. But it is not one mor, it is your last game. Who was going to tell us? You face 'El Guaje' Villa and I.

"Then, you will return home. Yours are waiting for you, although you have to know that the ball will be sadder today than yesterday.

"Enjoy everything that comes to you now and be happy. But how strange, Fernando. You haven't left yet and I miss you already."

Torres responded to Iniesta's letter with a Twitter post: "Today I woke up knowing that I play my last game as a professional and thinking that I would face it normally.

"Then I read a friend's letter and I start to get excited... thanks friend, @andresiniesta8."

Young winger Carles Perez struck a second-half brace to give Barcelona a 2-0 victory over Vissel Kobe in a low-key friendly in Japan on Saturday.

The Spanish champions toiled for nearly an hour before substitute Perez made the breakthrough following a neat exchange of passes with Malcom.

His second followed four minutes from the end, the 21-year-old clinically firing into the bottom right corner off his left foot.

Ernesto Valverde started Antoine Griezmann, Sergio Busquets and Ivan Rakitic but saved Frenkie de Jong, who debuted in the 2-1 loss to Chelsea earlier in the week, until the second 45 minutes.

De Jong's half-time introduction denied him the chance to go head-to-head with Blaugrana great Andres Iniesta, one of three former Barca players involved in the J.League side's matchday squad.

Iniesta, 35, managed to test Marc-Andre ter Stegen five minutes before the interval in a rare moment of defensive concern in what was otherwise a comfortable outing for LaLiga's champions.

Riqui Puig and Croatia international Rakitic threatened either side of Iniesta's shot but it was not until Perez arrived that Valverde's men were able to break the deadlock.

Barca, who before the match announced the beginning of formal partnership with Vissel Kobe, next face Premier League side Arsenal on August 4.

Thomas Vermaelen has followed Andres Iniesta and David Villa to J.League club Vissel Kobe following the expiry of his contact with Barcelona.

The Japanese side announced the signing of their fourth former Barca player as the clubs, who were preparing to face each other in a pre-season match on Saturday, moved to formalise their growing links.

Ahead of the friendly encounter, LaLiga champions Barca and Vissel Kobe announced the agreement of a knowledge-sharing partnership spanning marketing, commercial and staff management practices.

Scouting reports will also be shared and young players will have the opportunity to move between the clubs for training experience.

Vissel Kobe are owned by e-commerce company Rakuten, Barca's shirt sponsor and "main global partner" since 2017.

Iniesta left Camp Nou for the J.League in 2018 and has since been joined by former team-mates Villa and Sergi Samper.

Belgium international Vermaelen is the latest beneficiary of the link following Barcelona's decision not to renew his deal for a sixth season.

"When I came here, I had a very warm welcome and a lot of support," former Arsenal player Vermaelen said upon signing for his new club.

"I can't wait to start. I'm excited about it. I would like to do my best to improve the team."

Barca's clash with Vissel Kobe was their second pre-season outing, Ernesto Valverde's men having lost 2-1 to Chelsea earlier this week.

Andres Iniesta is anticipating a special game between Vissel Kobe and his former club Barcelona, and feels privileged to be involved.

Iniesta left Barca in 2018 after 16 years in the first team at Camp Nou, joining the J1 League club.

The former Spain international will go up against his former team for the first time in Saturday's friendly.

And the 35-year-old is expecting the match to be a momentous occasion not just personally, but also for Vissel Kobe's players and fans.

"For us it is a privilege to play Barcelona. It will be a very special game," he told a news conference.

"Personally, it will be special to play against some former colleagues. We will try to compete at our best, also in order to get prepared for our next [J1 League] game, which is the important one.

"We expect all the fans can have some fun with this match. Hopefully it will be a special day for all our fans, Barcelona fans and also for all the Japanese people."

While Vissel Kobe's J1 League campaign is well underway, the game is Barca's second pre-season friendly, with Ernesto Valverde's side having lost 2-1 to Chelsea on Tuesday.

LaLiga champions Barca host Arsenal at Camp Nou in their next outing, before taking on Napoli twice in the United States prior to starting their season against Athletic Bilbao.

As such, Valverde had little time with his squad before leaving Spain for Japan, and he conceded Barca's gruelling travel routine has not helped his players' fitness.

"Obviously, our preseason is not a standard one if you compare it with the rest of the teams," Valverde told a news conference.

"We just need to adapt ourselves to all these trips following the interests of our club as it needs to expand their brand.

"Besides, the club can get an important amount of money by playing these kind of games, so we must adapt ourselves to this factor.

"In terms of training sessions we are a bit short of shape as we have been working out just for a single week. Here [in Japan] the level of intensity at the training sessions is a bit different."

Andres Iniesta is adamant his former Barcelona team-mate Ivan Rakitic wants to stay at Camp Nou despite links with Paris Saint-Germain, Inter and Manchester United.

Croatia international Rakitic has spent five seasons at Barca following a move from Sevilla in 2014 and has been a key part of the side ever since, making at least 32 LaLiga appearances in each campaign.

Although his coaches have valued Rakitic's input, some supporters have questioned whether the 31-year-old merits inclusion in the Barca team.

But in spite of United, Inter and PSG apparently holding an interest in Rakitic, Iniesta is convinced his former colleague has no plans to leave.

"I don't know if he is untransferable, but I know he is happy and wants to stay at Barca," Iniesta told reporters in Japan before his Vissel Kobe side face the Blaugrana on Saturday.

"I hope he can [stay at the club] and continue to perform as before. I would be happy for him."

One player linked with a move to Barca is Neymar, another former team-mate of Iniesta's at Camp Nou.

The PSG star is at odds with his employers, who have confirmed he can leave for the right price, and Iniesta is eager to see the Brazilian back with the Spanish champions.

"I have said it many times, for me, as a player he is one of the best there is," Iniesta said. "If his signing is going well or badly, that is something the club must conclude.

"They are considerations of the sports management. But as a player, he is one of the best."

Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong played down comparisons to club greats Xavi and Andres Iniesta.

De Jong, 22, was signed by the LaLiga champions from Ajax in January for a reported €75million, but only made the move at the end of the season.

The Netherlands international has already been compared to Xavi and Iniesta, however, De Jong had no interest in discussing any similarities.

"I don't want to be compared with those players," De Jong told Barca TV.

"It's the perfect club for a midfielder. They hold onto the ball well, they control the play, it suits me perfectly."

De Jong joins Barcelona after a fine season with Ajax, winning a domestic double and reaching the Champions League semi-finals.

Barca were also eliminated in the semis, continuing their wait for a first Champions League crown since 2015.

Discussing his goals for 2019-20, De Jong is eager to be a regular starter for Barca – and he wants to help deliver in Europe.

"I want to start most games. All players want that. I'll work as hard as I can in training to show what I can do in games," he said.

"I like to play attacking football, for it to be attractive and for people to have fun when they come to the stadium.

"Both me and Barca are really keen to win the Champions League this year and I hope that's what happens."

Spain fell victim to the curse of the favourites at the 2018 World Cup when they were knocked out by hosts Russia, who produced one of the biggest shocks in the tournament's history. 

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