Barcelona legend Xavier “Xavi” Hernandez will wear another club’s jersey for the first time come next season.
One of the few players who needs simply a nickname to identify himself, Xavi will skip town after more than 760 appearances for the reigning La Liga champions, leaving in his wake eight La Liga crowns and at least two Copa del Rey wins and at least three UEFA Champions League titles.
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His new club? Al Saad, as Xavi will lend his name to Qatar’s battered soccer image in a big money deal at age 35.
The announcement is the final touch of a poorly-kept secret. Barca still has a Copa del Rey final against Athletic Bilbao and next month’s UCL final against Juventus.
“It’s a definitive decision, it’s not an easy one, it’s the right moment to go,” Xavi, Barcelona’s appearance record holder, told reporters.
“I still feel useful here but a change of scene is necessary, my head tells me so but not my heart,” he said, adding that his aim was to return to Barca after completing his coaching qualifications.
Some have questioned whether the move to Qatar is worthwhile or savory, but leaving Barcelona for nearly any club in the world is a pretty big step down. While it would’ve been nice for Xavi to stay through January, when Barca’s transfer ban ends, he’s earned the right to do what he pleases.