Andres Iniesta says he'll decide Barcelona future before May
BARCELONA -- Andres Iniesta says he will decide whether to remain at Barcelona or accept an offer to move to China before the end of April.
Iniesta, who turns 34 in May, signed a contract for life earlier this season at Camp Nou but the terms of the deal allow him to leave the club at the end of each campaign if he feels it's time for a new challenge.
The midfielder remains an important part of Ernesto Valverde's side and was rushed back from a hamstring injury to start Wednesday's Champions League win against Chelsea.
However, he's always insisted that he will not outstay his welcome and he says that he will weigh up whether he feels can still contribute to the cause next season in the coming weeks.
"It's a decision which you [the press] will find out after the club," Iniesta told reporters after helping Barca reach the Champions League quarterfinals for the 11th consecutive season.
"I will decide before April 30. It will be the most honest decision for me and for the club. There are still a few weeks left. There are two options: stay at Barcelona or go to China. Nothing has changed from what I said when I renewed my contract."
Barca coach Valverde would like Iniesta to stay at the club and his importance was apparent in the fact he started the game against Chelsea despite not being fully fit.
He lasted just over 50 minutes on his return from a hamstring injury before being replaced Paulinho, with two Lionel Messi goals and Ousmane Dembele's first goal for the club sealing the Catalan side's place in the last eight.
"I don't know what he will do, it's a very personal decision," Valverde said in a news conference when asked if he expected Iniesta to still be around after the summer.
"He has to decide himself. He will have his reasons and he will decide what's best for him and the club. But right now he's with us and we are not planning for anything other than having him here and living in the present, which means finishing the season well.
"So, let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. I am not thinking about a Barca without Andres because right now we're enjoying having him with us."
Despite progressing 4-1 on aggregate, Valverde acknowledged the part Chelsea played in the tie. The Premier League champions hit the woodwork four times over 180 minutes and will feel aggrieved to have lost so convincingly in the end.
"They were a real team, they've got extraordinary players and we knew it was going to be very tough," Valverde added. "They showed how tough they are to play against and this was one of the toughest games of the season.
"Just as in the first leg, we were in control. We played well but you could see that they always carried a threat. We had to suffer right until the end."
The main difference between the two sides was Messi, who ended his duck against Chelsea in at Stamford Bridge last month and brought up a century of Champions League goals with his brace on Wednesday.
"It's a luxury having Messi in your team -- he's so decisive in every attack and can create danger," Valverde added. "Our attacking game goes through him and he makes every move better.
"With his personality and the sense of responsibility he feels to the team, he knows when to appear in the key moments. We enjoy what he does and we're grateful to have him."
Samuel Marsden covers Barcelona for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @SamuelMarsden.