Mata, 35, signed for the Japanese table-toppers on a free transfer despite mooted interest from Saudi Arabia and several European sides. He departed Old Trafford last summer and spent one season at Galatasaray before settling on another new adventure in a country well-known to two ex-Spain teammates.
Iniesta and Villa won the World Cup alongside Mata for their nation in 2010 and both, previously, played for Kobe themselves. Iniesta made 134 appearances for the club before departing last month, while retired striker Villa hung up his boots upon leaving Japan in February 2020.
Kobe are, potentially, eight games away from winning their first ever J1-League title. They are currently two points clear at the summit and now have Mata on board to help spearhead their late quest for silverware.
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Offering his motive for the transfer, former United playmaker Mata said: “I have always been a big admirer of your country and your culture, so now it&aposs my time to enjoy it living here and I&aposm so happy about it. I feel really proud to sign for Vissel Kobe.
“It&aposs a club with great players and great friends I admire. Andres Iniesta and David Villa have played here so I&aposm very proud to follow their footsteps in this country.”
Mata continued: “I&aposm really looking forward to playing in this stadium in front of your fans with the aim of winning the first league for Vissel Kobe. I will try my best to help the team to win this trophy, to put one more trophy in my career, hopefully the first one of many.
The transfer window will soon close and although United got their hands on three players well in advance of the September 1 deadline, with Rasmus Hojlund joining Mason Mount and Andre Onana at Old Trafford, activity has stalled since Hojlund&aposs announcement.
A goalkeeper, a midfielder and a striker were Erik ten Hag&aposs priorities heading into the summer window, but injuries early on in the season mean United are in need of further reinforcements.
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“I will try to help as much as I can. Of course, the team is already doing well and winning points.
“We have players who are playing really well and are important for the team. I come here with humility to help in any way I can. I want to try to help win the first league title.