BARCELONA, Spain (NWN) — Xavi Hernández, a player who recognized the attacking style popularized by Barcelona and the Spanish national team, is close to returning to Camp Nou as coach.
Xavi’s current employer, Qatari club Al-Sadd, said on Friday that the former midfielder will be released from his coaching contract after his release clause is paid. His current contract runs into 2023.
Barcelona declined to comment on the cost, but Spanish media reports say Xavi’s buyout clause is 5 million euros ($5.7 million).
Al-Sadd CEO said, “Xavi informed us a few days ago of his desire to move to Barcelona at this particular time, as his hometown club is going through a critical phase, and we understand this and are on their way. Have decided not to stand.” Turki al-Ali said in a posting on the club’s Twitter account. “We have agreed to cooperate with Barcelona in the future. Xavi is an important part of al-Sad’s history and we wish him all the best.”
Xavi is set to replace Ronald Koeman, who was fired last week after a series of defeats for a club that failed to re-sign Lionel Messi. Sergi Barjuan has since coached Barcelona, overseeing draws in the Spanish league and victories in the Champions League. He will return to coaching the reserve team.
Facing a barrage of questions about Xavi at a regular pre-match news conference, Barjuan reiterated that Barcelona have yet to announce the signing of a new coach. Nevertheless, he described Saturday’s match at Celta Vigo as his last in the dugout.
“Barcelona hasn’t made anything official, but we all hope it can be worked out,” Barjuan said. “If Javi comes, I’ll be happy to help him in any way I can.”
Xavi, 41, left Barcelona in 2015 and has helped the club win 25 titles, including four Champions Leagues and eight Spanish leagues in 17 seasons. He was also instrumental to Spain’s title streak when it won the 2010 World Cup and the European Championships in 2008 and 2012.
He has been at Al-Saad since leaving Barcelona, first as a player and then as a coach.
Xavi’s vision, passing and ability to maintain the ball under pressure made him key to leading both Barcelona and the Spain national team to their most successful eras.
Barcelona club president Joan Laporta now hopes that as coach, Xavi can rekindle Barcelona’s beloved attacking style based on suffocating ball possession and complex passing moves.
But Xavi will arrive in a major league with no experience coaching and will face the same daunting challenge that led to Koeman’s downfall: Barcelona is no longer the Barcelona he left behind as a player.
The team’s depleted finances have stripped Messi and other top players like Antoine Griezmann and Luis Suarez, and limited it to signing free agents in the off-season.
Xavi will inherit a team that is struggling in the Spanish league and is not yet guaranteed to make it to the Champions League group stage.
It will also be seen whether Xavi’s personal relationships with veteran Sergio Busquets, Gerard Pique and Jordi Alba, all former teammates, will help or hurt him as he continues the necessary rebuilding initiated by Koman.
On his side, Xavi could benefit from the work initiated by Koman, who brought in a number of young players to his starting lineup. On top of all that, Pedri González, who has also had a wonderful year with Spain, and Gavi Pez are the perfect fit to fit into Xavi’s style of play. Striker Anu Fati has also emerged as a potential star.
Xavi turned down an opportunity to coach Barcelona in January 2020 when Laporta’s predecessor fired Ernesto Valverde in the middle of the season.
“When he offered me (the job), it was hardly three months since I was coaching,” Xavi recently said. “But now it’s different. I have more experience and I’m learning a lot here (with Al-Sad).”
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