Xavi named former Barcelona team-mates Carles Puyol and Jordi Cruyff as the men he wants by his side should he get the chance to fulfil his ambition of becoming head coach at Camp Nou.

The 40-year-old won his second trophy as Al Sadd boss when he guided the club to glory in the Qatar Cup final in January, days after turning down the offer of taking charge of Barcelona.

At the time Xavi said it was "too soon" for him to coach the LaLiga champions, but in an interview with La Vanguardia magazine he made it clear that becoming Barca's boss is very much in his plans.

"I am clear that I want to return to Barca," he said. "I am very excited.

"Now that I have seen myself coaching, I think I can contribute things to the players.

"But I made it clear to them that I saw myself in a project that started from scratch, and in which decision-making was mine."

Xavi shared 15 years as a Barcelona with Puyol and together they won six LaLiga titles, two Copa del Rey titles, three Champions Leagues, the UEFA Super Cup and two FIFA World Cup Cups.

Cruyff's time at Camp Nou came in the mid-90s, but Xavi said the 46-year-old, who is now head coach of Ecuador, would be his first choice as technical secretary.

"I would like to work together with people in whom I have confidence, with whom there is loyalty, and who are very valid people," said Xavi. "There cannot be anyone toxic near the locker room.

"We are talking about Carles Puyol, who was captain of Barca, and Jordi Cruyff, a very good businessman and with a lot of experience in the technical secretary.

"I am a team person; I don't want to decide alone. Obviously I would like to be very in tune with everyone.

"In the locker room there can be no negativity, nothing toxic. I would like to enter with people from my environment to form a good team."

Parma have ordered Gervinho to train alone until further notice following his failed attempt to force through a move to Al Sadd.

The former Arsenal forward chose not to attend training last week as he tried to secure a transfer to Xavi's side for a reported €5million fee.

The Ivory Coast international appeared set to make the move, but the transfer was not ratified before the Serie A deadline on January 31.

The 32-year-old will have to stay at Parma for the rest of the season, but he appears to be facing a fight to regain his place in the first team.

A club statement released on Tuesday said: "After unjustifiably missing training repeatedly last week, Parma can confirm that Gervinho will follow an individual training plan under the orders of the club's technical staff until a further announcement is made."

Gervinho has made 17 league appearances this season, scoring four goals and providing three assists.

Parma, who face Lazio on Sunday, are seventh in the Serie A table after 22 matches.

Xavi won his second trophy as a coach after leading Al Sadd to a 4-0 success over Al Duhail in the Qatar Cup final, days after turning down the Barcelona job.

Barca icon Xavi confirmed on Thursday that he had declined the opportunity to succeed Ernesto Valverde at Camp Nou.

Valverde was sacked on Monday, with former Real Betis and Las Palmas coach Quique Setien swiftly appointed.

Xavi claimed he turned Barca down because he believed it was "too soon" in his coaching career to take such a job, yet he will have done his credentials no harm with Friday's triumph.

Nam Tae-hee opened the scoring early on for Al Sadd, with Baghdad Bounedjah then doubling their tally after a mistake from Duhail's goalkeeper Amine Lecomte.

Bounedjah helped himself to a second before half-time, with Akram Afif's penalty completing the rout midway through the second half.

Friday's victory secured Xavi his second piece of silverware in charge of Al Sadd, who won the Qatari Super Cup in August last year.

Barca, meanwhile, kick-off the Setien era with a home match against Granada in LaLiga on Sunday.

Barcelona appear ready to turn to their next coaching target as the LaLiga giants eye Mauricio Pochettino.

Ernesto Valverde is under enormous pressure after the Supercopa de Espana semi-final loss to Atletico Madrid, but Xavi has reportedly turned down the job – for now.

Amid contrasting reports over Barca's next decision, they may be lining up a move for Pochettino.

 

TOP STORY – BARCA CONTACT POCHETTINO OVER COACHING JOB

Barcelona contacted former Tottenham manager Pochettino to be their next boss, according to RAC1.

It comes as widespread reports in Spain say Al Sadd boss and former Barcelona star Xavi turned down the position.

Meanwhile, Catalunya Radio reported Netherlands coach Ronald Koeman also rejected the opportunity.

After a meeting on Sunday, Barca decided to stick with Valverde for now, according to Sport.

ROUND-UP

- Amid reports Manchester United had agreed to terms with Bruno Fernandes, the Mirror says the Premier League club are set to bid £65million (€76.1m) for the Sporting CP midfielder this week.

- Tottenham are set to sign Benfica's Gedson Fernandes as further details about a possible move emerge. Italian journalist Fabrizio Romano reports Spurs will sign the Portugal international on loan with an option to buy for between £42.7m (€50m) and £51.2m (€60m) in 2021.

- Jerome Boateng continues to be linked with a Bayern Munich exit. Milan are ready to challenge Arsenal for the defender, according to Sky Germany.

- Coming out of contract at season's end, it appears Layvin Kurzawa's future is away from Paris Saint-Germain. L'Equipe reports the left-back – who has made just five Ligue 1 starts this campaign – recently rejected Inter but the Serie A club remain hopeful of signing the 27-year-old this month.

- Juventus are looking to the future. CalcioMercato reports the Serie A champions are keeping an eye on teenage Ajax midfielder Ryan Gravenberch and AZ forward Calvin Stengs.

Xavi has resisted the chance to join Barcelona immediately in favour of staying with Qatari club Al Sadd, reports said on Sunday.

Speculation is rife over the future of head coach Ernesto Valverde at Camp Nou, after back-to-back LaLiga champions Barca were defeated 3-2 by Atletico Madrid in the Supercopa de Espana semi-finals on Thursday.

Valverde's position has been in doubt since a collapse in the Champions League semi-finals against Liverpool and a defeat to Valencia in the Copa del Rey final the end of last season.

Spanish media widely reported on Friday that Barcelona chief executive Oscar Grau and technical secretary Eric Abidal had travelled to Doha to meet with Xavi.

The purpose of the trip was said to be to offer Xavi the chance to replace Valverde in the coming days, rather than wait until the end of the season.

However, Xavi is reported to have rejected Barcelona's offer, with Spanish sports daily Marca saying he will wait until June of this year or June 2021 to take over at Camp Nou.

Al Sadd confirmed their coach oversaw training ahead of the Qatar Cup final aginst Al-Duhail on January 17.

Xavi acknowledged he met with Barcelona officials but refused to go into detail over the meeting due to his respect for Valverde.

"Coaching Barca is my dream, I cannot hide that, everyone knows I support them from the bottom of my heart," Xavi told reporters on Saturday.

"Yes, Abidal is my friend. I've met him many times, so I cannot say anything, just that I respect Barcelona, I respect Valverde, I respect the players, I respect my club.

"They [Barca] were here to talk to me and we discussed many things. I cannot say anything else. Sorry, but I cannot inform you too much. I met Abidal, he is my friend, that's it.

"I'm doing my job here, I'm doing my best. I was focused on the semi-final and now we play the final so I'm very happy. I'm very happy to coach Al Sadd and I am focused on my team."

Xavi described becoming Barcelona head coach as his "dream" but insisted he respects under-pressure incumbent Ernesto Valverde.

Valverde's position has come under increased scrutiny after Barca's dramatic 3-2 defeat to Atletico Madrid in the Supercopa de Espana semi-final.

Al Sadd boss and Barca legend Xavi confirmed reports he had met with the Camp Nou club's director of football Eric Abidal in Qatar on Friday amid speculation he will be offered the opportunity to succeed Valverde at the end of the season, or potentially before that.

But the 39-year-old was reluctant to go into detail about the meeting, insisting he respects his former club and their coach.

"Coaching Barca is my dream, I cannot hide that, everyone knows I support them from the bottom of my heart," Xavi told reporters after leading Al Sadd into the Qatar Cup final with a win over Al Rayyan on Saturday.

"Yes, Abidal is my friend. I've met him many times, so I cannot say anything, just that I respect Barcelona, I respect Valverde, I respect the players, I respect my club. 

"They [Barca] were here to talk to me and we discussed many things." 

"They were here also to check on Ousmane Dembele, that's all," Xavi added of the Barcelona forward, who is recovering from a thigh injury in Qatar.

"I cannot say anything else. Sorry, but I cannot inform you too much. I met Abidal, he is my friend, that's it. 

"I'm doing my job here, I'm doing my best. I was focused on the semi-final and now we play the final so I'm very happy. I'm very happy to coach Al Sadd and I am focused on my team."

Xavi endured a long and distinguished playing career with Barca, with his incredible list of honours including eight LaLiga titles and four Champions League triumphs. 

Xavi seems set to return to Barcelona as head coach, replacing Ernesto Valverde.

Valverde is under pressure again at the helm of the LaLiga giants after Thursday's Supercopa de Espana semi-final loss to Atletico Madrid.

And, it seems Barca are wasting no time finding a replacement.

 

TOP STORY – BARCELONA OFFER XAVI DEAL TO REPLACE VALVERDE

Barcelona have offered Al Sadd boss Xavi a two-and-a-half-year deal to replace Valverde, according to AS.

Xavi's potential return to Camp Nou, where he won eight LaLiga titles and four Champions Leagues in a glittering playing career, is dominating headlines in Spain.

The cover of Sport reads 'Earthquake Xavi', while Marca also reports that Barcelona have offered the job to the former midfielder.

ROUND-UP

- Bruno Fernandes. Manchester United. Here we go again. Record reports Sporting CP officials met with the Premier League club with a move potentially going ahead in January. The Daily Mail says United are considering a £55m (€64.6m) move for Fernandes, who they were reportedly interested in during the close season.

- Staying at Old Trafford and The Sun reports Manchester United are eyeing a £40m move for West Ham defender Issa Diop, who is also apparently a target for Chelsea.

- Manchester United are at the centre of plenty of speculation this month, including a potential exit for Ashley Young. CalcioMercato reports Inter want the 34-year-old and the Serie A side are offering Young – who is out of contract at season's end – a deal until 2021.

- Gedson Fernandes is seemingly set for a move to London, but to which club remains to be seen. The Guardian reports West Ham fear they will miss out on the Benfica midfielder to Tottenham.

- Out of contract at the end of the season, Hugo Vallejo appears set for a Malaga exit. AS reports Real Madrid are considering making a move for the forward this month before sending the 19-year-old out on loan until the end of 2019-20. Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Valencia are also reportedly interested in Vallejo.

- Meanwhile, Barca have had an offer of €6m for midfielder Matheus Fernandes rejected by Palmeiras, according to Globo Esporte.

Ernesto Valverde appears to be running out of time at Barcelona, with Xavi reportedly poised to take over as head coach at Camp Nou.

Barcelona lost 3-2 to Atletico Madrid in the Supercopa de Espana semi-finals on Thursday, piling more scrutiny on Valverde.

Spanish media widely reported on Friday that Barcelona officials including chief executive Oscar Grau and technical secretary Eric Abidal had travelled to Doha.

The purpose of the trip was said to be a meeting with former Barcelona and Spain midfielder Xavi, who is currently in charge of Qatari club Al Sadd.

Reportedly, the meeting was scheduled in order for Barcelona to offer Xavi the position as coach for the next two seasons, starting at the end of the current campaign.

However, Spanish sports dailies Marca and AS both reported that Thursday's chaotic defeat to Atletico led Barca to propose Xavi takes over immediately, replacing Valverde.

Xavi, now 39, won eight LaLiga titles and four Champions League trophies during his time at Camp Nou.

Al Sadd issued a statement insisting Xavi remained fully focused on the team's match against Al-Rayyan on Saturday.

"The issue of Xavi going to Barcelona is normal and expected because he will be at his club and it's his first home and he must return there in the future, but as of today, Xavi is the coach of Al Sadd," general manager Turki Al-Ali said in a statement released on the club's official website.

"Xavi and his team are focusing on Saturday's match against Al-Rayyan, and we know that a club with the size and professionalism of Barcelona will take to official channels to speak of such matters."

Xavi has long been touted to follow in the footsteps of fellow former Blaugrana midfielder Pep Guardiola and take over at Barcelona.

Valverde, meanwhile, appeared to be close to losing his job at the end of last season, following Barca's capitulation in the Champions League semi-finals and a defeat to Valencia in the Copa del Rey final.

Netherlands coach Ronald Koeman was among the names linked to replacing Valverde, but the former Athletic Bilbao boss – who has guided Barca to successive LaLiga triumphs – retained his position.

Ernesto Valverde appears to be running out of time at Barcelona, with Xavi reportedly poised to take over as head coach at Camp Nou.

Barcelona lost 3-2 to Atletico Madrid in the Supercopa de Espana semi-finals on Thursday, piling more scrutiny on Valverde.

Spanish media widely reported on Friday that Barcelona officials including chief executive Oscar Grau and technical secretary Eric Abidal had travelled to Doha.

The purpose of the trip was said to be a meeting with former Barcelona and Spain midfielder Xavi, who is currently in charge of Qatari club Al Sadd.

Reportedly, the meeting was scheduled in order for Barcelona to offer Xavi the position as coach for the next two seasons, starting at the end of the current campaign.

However, Spanish sports dailies Marca and AS both reported that Thursday's chaotic defeat to Atletico led Barca to propose Xavi takes over immediately, replacing Valverde.

Xavi, now 39, won eight LaLiga titles and four Champions League trophies during his time at Camp Nou.

Al Sadd issued a statement insisting Xavi remained fully focused on the team's match against Al-Rayyan on Saturday.

"The issue of Xavi going to Barcelona is normal and expected because he will be at his club and it's his first home and he must return there in the future, but as of today, Xavi is the coach of Al Sadd," general manager Turki Al-Ali said in a statement released on the club's official website.

"Xavi and his team are focusing on Saturday's match against Al-Rayyan, and we know that a club with the size and professionalism of Barcelona will take to official channels to speak of such matters."

Xavi has long been touted to follow in the footsteps of fellow former Blaugrana midfielder Pep Guardiola and take over at Barcelona.

Valverde, meanwhile, appeared to be close to losing his job at the end of last season, following Barca's capitulation in the Champions League semi-finals and a defeat to Valencia in the Copa del Rey final.

Netherlands coach Ronald Koeman was among the names linked to replacing Valverde, but the former Athletic Bilbao boss – who has guided Barca to successive LaLiga triumphs – retained his position.

Al Sadd boss Xavi was left feeling angry with his players after they suffered a heavy 6-2 defeat to ES Tunis at the Club World Cup on Tuesday.

The Qatar champions were dismantled by a hat-trick from forward Hamdou Elhouni, producing what their head coach described as a "very disappointing" performance at Doha's Khalifa International Stadium in the fifth-place play-off.

Al Sadd did play the majority of the contest with 10 men after defender Abdelkarim Hassan was deemed to have blocked a goal-bound shot with his hand, leading to a straight red card.

Yet Xavi did not hold back in his post-match assessment, telling a news conference: "I'm very sad, very disappointed and very angry because we played the first two matches really well.

"This is a premium for us and I can't understand the team today. This is not what we want. 

"We are Al Sadd and we're playing against African champions and our attitude during the first 20 minutes isn't acceptable."

Former Barcelona and Spain international Xavi, who took charge in May after four years as a player with the club, acknowledged an improvement from his players following the dismissal of Hassan.

"After we got the red card we played okay," he added. "We played with good attitude, intensity. 

"I cannot accept the first 30 minutes, it's impossible to accept. I'm very angry, we need to find the solution. It was a really bad result

"We have to come back of course. We're in a bad moment because we couldn't compete well, but our reality is to win the local competitions and start well in the Asian Champions League. 

"This competition was a gift. Now we have to come back."

Hamdou Elhouni's hat-trick helped ES Tunis to a resounding 6-2 win over Al Sadd in the Club World Cup fifth-place play-off.

Elhouni's treble, plus two goals from Anice Badri and one for Sameh Derbali, sealed a comfortable triumph for the Tunisian side at Doha's Khalifa International Stadium on Tuesday.

Al Sadd played the majority of the contest with 10 men after defender Abdelkarim Hassan was deemed to have blocked a goal-bound shot with his hand.

Baghdad Bounedjah and Hassan Al Haydos salvaged some pride for Al Sadd, both scoring from the penalty spot, but ES Tunis added late goals to extend their margin of victory.

Libya international Elhouni put his side ahead in the sixth minute, then provided an assist for Badri to double the lead.

Al Sadd gave away a penalty after referee Abdelkader Zitouni deemed Hassan had blocked a Badri shot with his hand, the decision made following the use of technology.

Badri confidently dispatched the opportunity from 12 yards to make it 3-0, though Al Sadd reduced the deficit with a penalty of their own, Bounedjah on target after Derbali was felled inside the area.

ES Tunis restored their three-goal cushion shortly before half-time, though, when Elhouni tucked home a loose ball from a tight angle.

Al Sadd gave themselves hope with the third penalty of the match, scored by Al Haydos after Abdelkader Bedrane was fouled.

Elhouni duly completed his hat-trick when he tapped in at the back post, before Derbali rounded out the scoring with three minutes left with an angled finish.

Xavi trusts his Al Sadd side to learn from their mistakes and compete in the future as they attempt to finish their Club World Cup campaign on a high against ES Tunis.

The team representing host country Qatar missed out on a dream semi-final with European champions Liverpool after losing a thriller 3-2 to Monterrey last time out.

Leonel Vangioni and Rogelio Funes Mori goals left Al Sadd chasing the game and, although Baghdad Bounedjah halved the deficit, Carlos Rodriguez restored a two-goal lead to render Abdelkarim Hassan's late effort a mere consolation.

Al Sadd had laboured into that contest with an extra-time win over Hienghene Sport, leaving head coach Xavi to acknowledge his team have room to grow, even if he has been impressed by their attitude.

"The team made big mistakes that cost them the game, but we have to improve - it is part of the game and part of football," the Barcelona great told a news conference ahead of the play-off to determine who will finish fifth. 

"The pressure is on me as a coach, not the team. You cannot learn if you don't make mistakes and I trust them a lot.

"I am satisfied with the performance but not with the result. I am a winner and I want to win. I am pushing my players, but it is not easy.

"It's the best tournament in the world; we have to adjust in the future to progress."

ES Tunis find themselves out of the reckoning after Bafetimbi Gomis fired Al Hilal to a 1-0 victory and a semi-final with Flamengo.

After that game, ES Tunis coach Mouine Chaabani stated he felt the financial disparity between the teams had cost his side but praised his players for their collective showing.

And Xavi is expecting a difficult game, adding: "They are fighters, they are warriors, they have a good coach, a young coach. 

"It will be difficult to win the game but we will be at the same level."

Players to watch

Al Sadd – Akram Afif

While the main goalscoring threat is likely to once again come from Bounedjah, Akram Afif will hope to sign off in style. The forward was named AFC Player of the Year in 2019 and may just make a difference in what could be a tight match.

ES Tunis - Taha Yassine Khenissi

After only appearing as a substitute against Al Hilal, Taha Yassine Khenissi will be hoping to make a mark in Qatar. He has scored 47 league goals since the start of the 2015-16 season.

Liverpool's Club World Cup semi-final opponents Monterrey will have to up their game when they face Jurgen Klopp's Reds, the Mexican side's head coach Antonio Mohamed has said.

Monterrey beat Xavi's Al Sadd 3-2 in Qatar on Saturday to seal a last-four clash against Champions League holders Liverpool.

Leonel Vangioni scored a stunning goal, Rogelio Funes Mori made it seven goals in his past five matches and Carlos Rodriguez also found the net, yet Mohamed was not pleased with the level of performance.

Abdelkarim Hassan scored Al Sadd's second goal - after Baghdad Bounedjah got their first - to give them hope and Mohamed insisted a similar performance against Liverpool in the semi-final will result in defeat.

"It was a difficult match and we have to flip the page, it's a new chapter now," Mohamed said at a news conference.

"We have to play better and perform better if we want to compete against Liverpool. Liverpool are a team that forces you to play better and top your performance.

"We have no other option. If we play like today we will not be able to defeat Liverpool, so we have to raise the bar."

Leonel Vangioni's superb goal sent Monterrey on their way to a 3-2 Club World Cup quarter-final victory over Al Sadd that sealed a last-four tie against Liverpool.

Monterrey, third in this tournament back in 2012, will face the European champions on Wednesday after a thrilling victory at Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium.

Vangioni scored with a stunning strike from 30 yards midway through the first half, before Rogelio Funes Mori made it seven goals in his past five matches with an effort just before the break.

Baghdad Bounedjah scored for the second straight match, but any hopes of an Al Sadd comeback were effectively ended when Carlos Rodriguez struck with 13 minutes to go.

There was still time for Abdelkarim Hassan to score a second for Al Sadd, who had laboured to an extra-time win over Hienghene Sport of New Caledonia in the first round, as the team representing host country Qatar were eliminated.

Monterrey almost made a dream start when Jesus Gallardo fired a left-footed effort against the crossbar after being found by Funes Mori. 

Al Sadd went straight up the other end and Akram Afif forced a key save from goalkeeper Marcelo Barovero as part of a lively opening.

It was the Mexicans who scored a magnificent opener after 22 minutes, Vangioni receiving a pass from Rodriguez and sending an unstoppable effort off the post and into the top-right corner.

Monterrey struck again in the opening minute of first-half stoppage time, an awful back-pass from Gabi inadvertently sending Funes Mori through on goal and the striker took a touch before coolly beating keeper Saad Al Sheeb.

Afif missed a glorious chance for Al Sadd, but Xavi's men did get one back with 24 minutes left when Bounedjah headed in a Hassan Al Haydos cross.

But Monterrey booked their place in the next round when a superb run and pass from Gallardo set up Rodriguez to fire into the roof of the net, with Hassan's great strike for Al Sadd with a minute left of normal time coming too late in the day.

Al Sadd coach Xavi attempted to ease the pressure on his team ahead of their Club World Cup quarter-final with Monterrey on Saturday.

Xavi's side squeezed past Hienghene Sport of New Caledonia in their previous match, with the unfancied OFC Champions League winners forcing extra time after a thrilling 1-1 draw.

Tournament hosts Al Sadd ultimately had too much for Hienghene, claiming a 3-1 win after the additional 30 minutes, though the performance appeared to show cracks in the Qatari club's armour.

There is no doubt in Xavi's mind what the outcome should be in Saturday's encounter with historic Mexican club Monterrey, who he considers to be of a higher level than Al Sadd.

"I'll tell my players that we have nothing to lose when we face tough teams," he said. "We are seen as the losers and we have to take advantage of that.

"The pressure is with Monterrey. They are a bigger name and have players at a higher level than we are.

"But everything is possible and if you want to achieve success, you have to try to be better."

CONCACAF Champions League winners Monterrey begin their campaign with Saturday's match, having beaten bitter rivals Tigres UANL in the two-legged final of their region's biggest competition in April and May.

But then-coach Diego Alonso was sacked in September after Tigres exacted their revenge in Liga MX.

Antonio Mohamed took over for a second spell in charge and remains unbeaten with nine wins in 12 competitive matches, allowing the Rayados to come into the Club World Cup with momentum.

Mohamed is relishing the opportunity to go up against Xavi, whom he admires, though his focus remains fixed on a potential match-up with Liverpool.

"If Xavi the coach is 50 per cent as good as he was as a player, he is going to be really successful," Mohamed said. "It's an honour to play against him.

"I know he was the perfect player on and off the pitch. He was very talented. We have followed his team and he is making them emulate Barcelona's style.

"They control the ball and this is a challenge for us. We will test our will, our ability and the possibility to have the upper hand from a tactical point of view.

"To play Liverpool, we have to win. We have to win, if we don't then the Liverpool match doesn't exist. By saying that we're coming for everything, we are preparing everyone to compete."

 

Players to watch

Monterrey – Rogelio Funes Mori

Funes Mori has begun to show the talent he was said to possess during his formative years at River Plate since joining Monterrey from Benfica in 2015. An underwhelming stint in Europe – which included a loan to Eskisehirspor – is well behind him and the former Argentina youth international is flourishing with the Rayados in another fine campaign. He heads into the game with six goals in his past four matches and is Monterrey's top scorer in Liga MX with 11, six more than Vincent Janssen.

Al Sadd –  Baghdad Bounedjah

In a match that had few positives for Al Sadd, given how they struggled for long periods against such an unfancied Hienghene side, Bounedjah did at least live up to his reputation. The sharpshooter opened the scoring with a well-taken volley in the first half and remained a threat, though he failed to add to his tally. Like Funes Mori, he has scored six times in his four most recent outings for club and country, though Bounedjah also netted an astonishing 39 in 22 Stars League matches last term.

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