BREAKING NEWS: Al Sadd confirm deal for Xavi to take Barcelona job

By Sports Desk November 05, 2021

Xavi is set to be confirmed as Barcelona's new head coach after leaving his role with Al Sadd. 

The 41-year-old will take over at Camp Nou having spent the past two and a half years in charge of Al Sadd.

Xavi still had two more years to run on his deal, but Barcelona have paid his release clause and reached an agreement with the Qatari side for the club legend to replace Ronald Koeman.

A statement from Al Sadd CEO Turk Al-Ali read: "The Al Sadd administration has agreed on Xavi's move to Barcelona after the payment of the release clause stipulated in the contract.

"We've agreed on cooperation with Barcelona in the future. Xavi is an important part of Al-Sadd's history and we wish him success.

"Xavi informed us a few days ago of his desire to go to Barcelona at this particular time, because of the critical stage his hometown club is going through, and we understand this and decided not to stand in his way."

 

Xavi racked up 767 appearances for Barca during his playing career – a tally only surpassed by Lionel Messi (778) – and won a glut of individual and team honours.

He won LaLiga eight times and the Champions League on four occasions before ending his 24-year association with the Catalan giants in 2015.

After seeing out the final four seasons of his playing career with Al Sadd and adding four more trophies to his collection, Xavi made the transition into coaching in May 2019.

The World Cup winner has enjoyed success in the dugout, too, having guided his side to the top-flight title last season, on top of winning the Qatar Cup and Qatari Super Cup.

Former Spain international Xavi departs with Al Sadd three points clear at the top of the league following Wednesday's 3-3 draw with second-place Al-Duhail.

That proved to be Xavi's final game at the helm, and he now faces a huge job at Barcelona, who are down in ninth place in LaLiga with 11 games of their season played.

Barca lost to Real Madrid and Rayo Vallecano in Koeman's last two games and have since drawn with Deportivo Alaves in the league and beaten Dynamo Kiev in the Champions League under interim boss Sergi Barjuan.

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  • 'We do not enter this equation' – Barcelona never in the running for Mbappe or Haaland, says Xavi 'We do not enter this equation' – Barcelona never in the running for Mbappe or Haaland, says Xavi

    Xavi has insisted Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland were never realistic targets for Barcelona, though he is confident he will have money to invest in the squad. 

    Barca wrap up what has been a turbulent season against Villarreal on Sunday. 

    The Blaugrana will finish second in LaLiga, a testament to the work done by Xavi since he replaced the much-maligned Ronald Koeman earlier in the campaign. 

    However, they were knocked out of the Champions League in the group stage and fell to a defeat to eventual winners Eintracht Frankfurt in the Europa League quarter-finals, while there was no success in the Copa del Rey either. 

    The 2021-22 season came on the back of Lionel Messi's shock departure, as Barca grappled with financial issues that saw the superstar leave for Paris Saint-Germain. 

    Ferran Torres, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Adama Traore arrived to bolster the squad in January, though the latter two were on a free transfer and a loan respectively. 

    Barca were linked with moves for Mbappe and Haaland. However, Mbappe is weighing up offers from Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid while Haaland is joining Manchester City, and Xavi has claimed there was never any chance of the Blaugrana having the financial capability to sign such players. 

    "Ask me another question," he told a news conference on Saturday. "Mbappe, let him do what he wants, let him be happy.  

    "We do not enter into this equation. I do not understand the question. 

    "We cannot put a lot of money in. The economic situation is what it is. We did not enter the bidding of Haaland or Mbappe but that is what we have inherited. 

    "There is no need to look back. You have to carry on. We have to compete and win titles again, we need to be competitive from now on. 

    "The president transmits confidence to me and that we will be able to invest in our squad. We have made a plan and we will try to execute it.  

    "The economic situation is serious but it is not my turn to talk about money. I'm here to talk about football. The economic problems are what they are, but let's talk about football." 

    One player who has been heavily linked is Bayern Munich star Robert Lewandowski, who plundered 50 goals in all competitions in the 2021-22 campaign. 

    No player across Europe's top five leagues has scored more goals than the Poland striker this season, but he has told Bayern he wishes to leave and will not be signing a new contract, with his deal ending in June 2023. 

    However, LaLiga president Javier Tebas on Friday cast doubt on Barca's ability to be able to afford the 34-year-old. 

    Asked about Lewandowski, Xavi said: "It is one of the possibilities that may come. He has said it himself.  

    "There are some negotiations involved. It will not be easy with Bayern involved." 

    One possible outgoing at Barca who could free up funds would be Frenkie de Jong. Both Manchester clubs are credited with an interest in the Netherlands international who joined from Ajax in 2019, though it has been reported the 25-year-old is in no rush to leave the Camp Nou. 

    "Here we go back to talking about the economic situation," replied Xavi when pressed on the De Jong speculation.  

    "He is, for me, a great player who is very capable and very dominating, he can help us a lot, but we go back to talking about money and I don't want to do that." 

  • Atletico Madrid need signings for 'new energy' – Simeone Atletico Madrid need signings for 'new energy' – Simeone

    Diego Simeone is targeting some new signings to reinvigorate an Atletico Madrid squad that "needs new energy". 

    Atletico were disappointing in the defence of their LaLiga title and have lost nine games and conceded 42 goals – both their worst totals since the 2011-12 campaign, when they appointed Simeone midway through the season. 

    A strong finish to this term, in which they went on a run of nine wins in 12 outings, enabled them to secure a top-four finish and a place in next season's Champions League. 

    Simeone still has faith in the ability of his squad but feels it would be wise for Atleti to try to conduct some galvanising transfers. 

    "We have a strong squad. In almost all areas, we have players who can give us what we want. We don't need many players, but we do need some to reinforce a team that needs new energy," said Simeone. 

    The Atleti boss took responsibility for the team's shortcomings because he felt he did not do enough to solve the issues they faced. 

    "I'm not happy with this season at all. After winning LaLiga, I always had the hope of being closer to defending it. It's a good lesson in life to keep learning," said Simeone. 

    "The 4-4-2 and 5-3-2 that we were using – that also made me feel a bit dizzy. There is not much difference between the two but I could have done more than I did. 

    "We have to refine things. We suffered with the absence of [Kieran] Trippier and were not able to solve it as I would have liked. [Marcos] Llorente played a whole year in a position where he couldn't show what he showed last season. 

    "We suffered a lot with the central defenders – [Stefan] Savic and [Jose] Gimenez have had injuries and setbacks. They seem like excuses, but they are realities. I couldn't solve it in the best way. 

    "There's always a lot of self-criticism and it's harsher than what the media says. We want to win. The club's goal is to get in the Champions League, but ours is to win. 

    "It was an unusual season. We're not used to conceding so many goals and we lost many games. But with all the difficulties we qualified for the Champions League with two games to spare." 

    Atleti will hope to finish the season by defeating Real Sociedad on Sunday and claiming back-to-back away LaLiga wins for the first time since June 2022. 

    Los Colchoneros have won six of their 10 away games against Sociedad under Simeone, having won only six of the previous 28 such encounters.

  • Xavi praises Barca for saving their season as Dembele's potential final game looms Xavi praises Barca for saving their season as Dembele's potential final game looms

    Xavi hailed Barcelona for saving a season that "could have been worse" but wants improvements next term from the Blaugrana, who Ousmane Dembele could play his last game for on Sunday.

    Blaugrana great Xavi was appointed in November as the successor to Ronald Koeman, with Barca languishing in ninth in LaLiga after an underwhelming start to their 2021-22 campaign.

    However, Xavi has reinvigorated Barca as the Catalan giants have climbed up to second in the league, albeit 13 points behind champions Real Madrid with one game left to play.

    Barca conclude their campaign at home to Villarreal, and with second place already secured Xavi praised the recovery his side has made, but urged them to improve to compete with Madrid next season.

    "We have saved a situation that could have been worse," he told reporters at a pre-match news conference on Saturday. "We have gone from less to more. We have competed but it has not given us any reward. We have to win titles. 

    "I don't give myself a grade because whatever is said will be criticised. We have improved a lot. I am the first to demand more from myself. From now on, we will look to improve further.

    "We have to improve in every way – psychologically, physically, which we have already improved, and reinforce the squad with two players per position. And also tactically, so everyone understands our ideas."

    The game against Villarreal could prove to be Dembele's last at Camp Nou as contract negotiations remain ongoing.

    Bayern Munich and Chelsea are reported to be keen on the World Cup-winning winger, whose 11 LaLiga assists in 2022 is more than any other player has registered across Europe's top five leagues.

    Blaugrana president Joan Laporta has reiterated his desire to keep the France international at Barca, and Xavi hailed Dembele for his efforts in the second half of the season.

    "It could be the last. You have to be optimistic. He has played excellent games and when he has not been involved we have noticed," he said of the former Borussia Dortmund player.

    Barca have won their last five games against Villarreal in LaLiga, and could register six wins in a row against them for the first time in the competition.

    However, Xavi expects a tough task when his team host Unai Emery's side, who made it to the Champions League semi-finals this season, where they were defeated by Liverpool.

    "The result will be important. I would like to see a team with good feelings, bravery and finish with the best feelings," he continued.

    "Villarreal is the best team we have faced. They have a lot at stake, and are a difficult opponent. You have to have a personality that the fans come to enjoy. There will be chances and it will be a good show."

    Barca have confirmed Ronald Araujo will return to the squad after recovering from a head injury that caused him to spend a night in hospital following the game against Celta Vigo on May 10.

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