Xavi: Barcelona return is the biggest challenge of my career

By Sports Desk November 06, 2021

Xavi described his return to Barcelona as "the biggest challenge of my career" after he was officially confirmed as the club's next head coach.

Barca announced in the early hours of Saturday that former Spain star Xavi had been appointed as Ronald Koeman's replacement at Camp Nou.

Club delegates travelled to Qatar this week to formalise the payment of the release clause in the 41-year-old's contract with Al Sadd, where he has been head coach for the past two and a half years.

Xavi's first senior coaching role in Europe will see him entrusted with steering Barca through one of the most difficult periods in their modern history.

Debts of more than €1.2billion meant the Blaugrana could not afford to sign Lionel Messi to a new contract or make any significant investment in the playing squad before this season, and results on the pitch have been concerning: they are ninth in LaLiga, having won only four of their first 11 games.

Xavi made 767 appearances for Barca in all competitions, a tally only surpassed by Messi (778), before retiring as a club hero in 2015 after winning his eighth league title and fourth Champions League.

However, he believes returning to the club at this time represents by far the toughest test he has faced as a professional.

 

Speaking to reporters before flying back to Spain, he said: "It's the biggest challenge of my career. I'm really happy, I'm coming home, coming back to Barca. It's a major challenge.

"I'm really grateful to Barca. They came to Doha, my contract was rescinded, there was a clause, and each of us has done our part. I'm really grateful to the club."

Xavi hopes his familiarity with some of Barca's more experienced players could serve as an advantage as he attempts to hit the ground running.

"The first thing to do is to speak with the players, to explain to them the ideas I have and to work a lot," he said.

"To coach friends is an advantage, it's a positive point. I know how they train and I know what they're like. I see it as an advantage."

Related items

  • Europa Conference League win would 'finish a journey' for Roma, says Mourinho ahead of final Europa Conference League win would 'finish a journey' for Roma, says Mourinho ahead of final

    Jose Mourinho has said Wednesday's inaugural Europa Conference League final will be about "finishing a journey" as his Roma side prepare to take on Feyenoord.

    The Giallorossi beat Leicester City in the semi-finals and finished sixth in Serie A this season to qualify for next season's Europa League.

    Mourinho recently insisted that winning the Europa Conference League will mean as much to him as his Champions League titles with Porto and Inter.

    The game with their Dutch opponents will take place at Arena Kombetare in Tirana, Albania, and speaking at a media conference on Tuesday, Mourinho said winning the first edition of the competition was a key target for his team. 

    "To me this final is not about writing history," he said. "It's about finishing a journey we've been on this season and achieving one of the targets we've always had.

    "Me and my staff have been at Trigoria since the Torino game, preparing for this game. The squad look in good shape to me, ready for this."

    Attacking midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan has not played since suffering a muscle injury against Leicester last month, but Mourinho said the Armenian could be available on Wednesday. 

    "Mkhitaryan trained today with the squad for the first time. But it was only a light session," he said.

    "Still, it was important for him to see how he feels out there on the pitch. I will rely a lot on his view on whether he is ready or not tomorrow."

    The former Chelsea manager has often gone by the moniker "The Special One", following his confident self-tagging when he became boss at Stamford Bridge in 2004, but he insisted he is not the same person any more and just wants to help his team.

    "The Special One story is a nonsense," he added. "It's something you say in the beginning of your career. As you progress, mature, you start to think more about others than yourself. So that's an old story to me. Tomorrow, I will simply try to help."

    Roma captain Lorenzo Pellegrini also spoke to the media, and said he and his team-mates will be "focused and determined" to get the win.

    "Who wouldn't want to bring something home that will remain forever in the history of this club?" the 25-year-old said.

    "We will be focused and determined, as we always are. I hope that tomorrow will end up being one of the best days of my life."

  • Jamaica Reggae Boy Hector again on the hunt for new club with Fulham stint ending in June Jamaica Reggae Boy Hector again on the hunt for new club with Fulham stint ending in June

    Jamaica international Michael Hector will once again be on the hunt for a new club come the end of the next month when he is expected to leave recently promoted Fulham.

    The 29-year-old defender has been with the club since 2019 and was a part of the successful promotion-chasing team in the 2020 season.   The Cottagers will once again be heading back to the topflight after winning the league championship a few weeks ago.

    This time around, however, the player found playing time hard to come by and accumulated just seven starts in all competitions for the Cottagers last season.  In preparing for life in the top flight again the club recently announced that it would part ways with as many as 14 players with the Jamaican international among them.

    Hector has enjoyed a nomadic experience in the English Leagues to date having played for some 18 clubs, including Reading (twice) and Hull City.  For Jamaica, he has made 35 appearances, last representing the team in July of last year.

     

     

     

     

  • 'A footballer forced to stay can be frustrated and angry' – Ribery issues warning to Bayern over Lewandowski stance 'A footballer forced to stay can be frustrated and angry' – Ribery issues warning to Bayern over Lewandowski stance

    Former Bayern Munich star Franck Ribery has warned the Bundesliga champions not to keep striker Robert Lewandowski at the club against his will.

    Questions remain over Lewandowski's future after he confirmed last week that he wants to leave Bayern.

    Lewandowski suggested no new terms had been proposed on his contract, which is due to expire at the end of the season.

    However, Bayern chief executive Oliver Kahn insisted on Saturday that a "concrete offer" was on the table, while sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic accused the player's agent, Pini Zahavi, of attempting to turn his client's head.

    Zahavi hit back at Salihamidzic as he warned Bayern it would not be sensible to risk losing Lewandowski on a free transfer, nor to deny him the opportunity to join Barcelona.

    Ribery, who played alongside Lewandowski at Bayern between 2014 and 2019, agrees with that sentiment, but remains hopeful the 33-year-old can leave the club on good terms.

    "There is such a risk [for Bayern]," he told Wirtualna Polska. "A footballer forced to stay can be frustrated and angry.

    "However, I would love to find a solution that will make everyone happy. I understand the club because it will be very difficult to find a new Lewandowski.

    "We are talking about the best striker in the world in recent years. Nobody sells such a player willingly.

    "But Lewandowski wants this change; he is looking for a new spark, he needs a new challenge. This situation is not easy. May there be a good solution for everyone.

    "If Robert leaves, nobody and nothing will erase what he has done for Bayern. But I would also like him to leave in style."

     

    Lewandowski scored 50 goals in 46 matches for Bayern this season in all competitions, making him the top scorer across Europe's top five leagues.

    And Ribery, who now plays in Serie A for Salernitana, believes the Poland international and LaLiga giants Barca would be a perfect fit.

    "Barca is Barca," he added. "Sure, they have their problems, but even if they are not as strong as five or six years ago, they are still big.

    "It is known that then they had an amazing team, players who played together for many years. [Lionel] Messi, Xavi, [Andres] Iniesta, [Gerard] Pique, [Dani] Alves, [Jordi] Alba.

    "It's different now, but there is no shortage of talent there. Yes, if Lewy were to leave Bayern, Barcelona would be a good choice."

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.