Xavi said he was still dreaming of becoming Barcelona boss one day, seeing himself as a capable coach.

The Al-Sadd boss was linked with the job earlier this year when the LaLiga giants sacked Ernesto Valverde, before they turned to Quique Setien.

Xavi, 40, said taking over at Camp Nou remained a dream and he is increasingly confident about his coaching abilities.

"I don't know why people see me like this, but I am proud and I like it," he told DjMaRiiO in a YouTube interview.

"Now that I have tried as a coach, I see myself as capable and it is an illusion, a dream to return to Barcelona.

"I have already said it on many occasions, I consider Barca my home, it is my life.

"I am in an apprenticeship. I am learning a lot as a coach here in Qatar. Obviously, training for Barca are big words, you have to see it clearly, be very prepared.

"It is all a process and I hope that someday I can arrive."

Xavi won eight LaLiga titles and four Champions Leagues among numerous other trophies as a player at Barcelona.

Barcelona star Lionel Messi is the best player of all-time while Ronaldinho belongs among the greats, according to Xavi.

Messi is a record six-time Ballon d'Or winner and is considered among the modern-day greats, alongside Cristiano Ronaldo.

His former team-mate, Xavi, has no doubt the Argentina international is the greatest player ever.

"Ronaldinho is at the level of the best. Ronaldinho is at the level of the best, perhaps what he lacked was constancy," the Al-Sadd coach told Globo Esporte.

"Perhaps he lacked constancy in being at his peak. For me, only Messi is above Ronaldinho because of the constancy of the last few years."

Xavi added: "Messi is the best in history, but Ronaldinho is with the best. The rest follow.

"He [Ronaldinho] is with the best – with Ronaldo 'Fenomeno', with Cristiano Ronaldo, Messi, that group."

Messi had scored 24 goals in 31 games this season before the campaign was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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."

Andres Iniesta says the prospect of taking on a joint coaching role with Xavi at Barcelona "doesn't sound too bad".

Former midfielder Xavi was one of the candidates to take over from Ernesto Valverde, who was sacked as head coach following the 3-2 Supercopa de Espana semi-final defeat to Atletico Madrid.

The Al Sadd boss confirmed he held talks with his old club but turned down their offer as he considered it too early in his coaching career.

Quique Setien has since been installed on a two-and-a-half-year deal, but it remains widely expected that Xavi will return to Camp Nou in future to take charge of the first team.

Iniesta, whose midfield partnership with Xavi was a cornerstone of one of Barca's greatest eras, likes the idea of reuniting with his old team-mate in the dug-out.

"The Xavi-Iniesta tandem doesn't sound too bad, but it's not possible right now," he told El Partidazo.

"I think Xavi will sooner or later be at Barca, but I don't know at which moment."

Iniesta, who spent 22 years at Barca after joining as a youngster, thinks the idea of former stars coming back to the club can only be a positive.

When asked about the prospect of another ex-team-mate, Carles Puyol, taking up a role of sporting director, with Xavi as coach and Gerard Pique as president, Iniesta said: "I truly believe those players, one day, should be at the club, although I don't know in which role.

"Firstly, because of their abilities, and then because of what they represent and the good they can do at the club where they have spent their lives."

Iniesta caused a stir when he described Barca's conduct as "ugly" when Valverde was dismissed this month.

The former Spain star has moved to clarify his comments, saying: "People who know me know it's very difficult for me to criticise the way Barcelona do or don't do things. Maybe the word 'ugly' is strong, or everyone can use it to say I've given a bit of attention to Barca, as I read, but it's not like that at all.

"If you like, take away the word 'ugly' for any other. What I believe is that the manner wasn't correct - even [president Josep Maria] Bartomeu recognised that. That was just one way of saying it."

Iniesta, who confirmed he spoke with Valverde following the news, now hopes to see Setien enjoy success with his commitment to possession-based, attacking football.

"I've spoken with him [Setien] one time," said the Vissel Kobe man. "He had long since been tipped to coach Barcelona.

"I think he's a coach, and everyone agrees with this, who has a way of understanding and watching football with a lot of possession, and who likes to play well and attack.

"I believe, and I hope, he can have a great period." 

Barcelona great Xavi says he rejected an offer from the club to succeed Ernesto Valverde as head coach.

Valverde was sacked in the wake of the 3-2 defeat to Atletico Madrid in the semi-finals of the inaugural expanded Supercopa de Espana this month.

Xavi was reportedly on a shortlist of candidates put forward to the Barca board before former Real Betis boss Quique Setien was appointed on a two-and-a-half-year deal.

The Al Sadd coach has confirmed he was made a formal offer by technical secretary Eric Abidal and CEO Oscar Grau but says he turned it down as it would be "too soon" for him to take charge at Camp Nou.

"Yes, I received an offer from Barcelona in the presence of Eric Abidal and Oscar Grau, but I didn't accept it," he told reporters on Thursday.

"It's too soon to coach Barcelona, but it will continue to be my dream to be Barcelona coach in the future."

Xavi is said to have met three times with Abidal and Grau in Doha last weekend, and he admits the uncertainty made it difficult to focus on his job at Al Sadd.

However, the former Spain star insists he is now fully focused ahead of Friday's Qatar Cup final against Al Duhail.

"I told my family first and then the Al Sadd players because they were following the topic," he said when asked who first learned he had turned down Barca's approach.

"I wasn't in my best position during the three days, but I'm now totally focused on Al Sadd."

Ernesto Valverde has taken Barcelona training amid widespread reports he will meet with the club's board later on Monday.

Despite his side sitting top of LaLiga, the Barcelona head coach is under intense pressure, scrutiny which increased after last week's 3-2 loss to Atletico Madrid in the Supercopa de Espana semi-final in Saudi Arabia.

Valverde was pictured taking training as reports in Spain suggested he could lose his position depending on the outcome of talks with the Barca hierarchy.

Barca great Andres Iniesta made an appearance at the session shortly after telling reporters the saga around Valverde had become "ugly", urging respect for his former boss who he felt had seen his position "weakened" by the constant speculation.

Iniesta's former team-mate Xavi, now head coach of Al Sadd, met with the Camp Nou side's director of football Eric Abidal in Qatar on Friday.

But while conceding coaching Barca was his "dream", he did not divulge what was discussed and reiterated his respect for Valverde when he faced reporters after leading Al Sadd into the Qatar Cup final with a win over Al Rayyan.

Reports on Sunday then suggested Xavi had turned down the chance to take charge of Barca immediately.

Ronald Koeman, Massimiliano Allegri and Mauricio Pochettino are the other leading contenders to replace Valverde if the former Athletic Bilbao boss is removed from his role.

While managing Tottenham, Pochettino had insisted he would never contemplate taking charge of Barca due to his ties to his old team Espanyol, though reports claim the five-time European champions are still keen to make an approach.

Valverde took charge in 2017 and won two league titles, the Copa del Rey and a Supercopa crown over his first two seasons.

Barca are due to train on Tuesday before a day off on Wednesday and will next be in action with a Sunday home league contest against Granada.

Andres Iniesta has urged Barcelona to show more respect to head coach Ernesto Valverde following "ugly" reports they are attempting to line up club legend Xavi as his replacement.

Barca are on course for a third successive LaLiga title and remain in the Champions League, but Valverde is under increasing pressure.

Following the 3-2 Supercopa de Espana semi-final defeat to Atletico Madrid in Jeddah, reports of the board's apparent frustrations with Valverde have escalated.

Strong speculation has claimed club directors used the trip to Saudi Arabia to open talks with Xavi regarding the possibility of replacing Valverde, but the 39-year-old – who is in charge of Qatari club Al Sadd – is said to have told them he is only willing to take over at the end of the season.

Barca have not confirmed the stories, but they do not sit easy with Iniesta, who spent a season playing under Valverde at Camp Nou.

"What comes to my mind a little, if all this is so, is that the way everything is being done is a bit ugly," he told Onda Cero.

"I think that there should always be respect for the coach. The boss' situation and position has been left very weakened.

"My relationship with the boss is very good. During the year we have been talking sometimes. Really, beyond whether we like the coach or not, I think the situation is not pleasant for anyone: the coach, the team or the fans."

Netherlands boss Ronald Koeman and Mauricio Pochettino have been mentioned as potential alternatives to Xavi if he decides he is not ready to return to Barca.

But Iniesta opted against outright backing anyone, suggesting Xavi and Koeman have positives and drawbacks.

"There is a case for everyone," Iniesta added. "In the case of Pep Guardiola, who was at Barca B and then he took over the first team, the one who knows [the team and club] best is Xavi.

"He will have analysed all the variables that there can be and let's see what happens, but Koeman has a lot of experience as a coach and Xavi is starting out now.

"But a lot of times, experience counts for nothing. Both of them have been at Barca and know the club."

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. 

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.

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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