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Xavi: ‘I can’t deny that my dream is to coach Barcelona’

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Barcelona legend and current Al-Sadd coach Xavi Hernandez confessed that his dream is to coach his former club, amid reports of current talks between the 39-year-old and the La Liga champions.

“I can’t deny that my dream is to coach Barcelona,” Xavi said on Saturday after leading his side to the Qatari cup final. “I’ve said it so many times, in a lot of interviews. Everyone knows that I’m a Barcelona fan, the club are in my heart and my dreams. But for now I’m focused on Al-Sadd.”

Current manager Ernesto Valverde is facing pressure at the Blaugrana after a late collapse against Atletico Madrid in the semifinals of the Spanish Super Cup in Saudi Arabia on Thursday. It’s the 55-year-old’s second consecutive poor result, with Barcelona dropping points against rivals and league-worst Espanyol in their last La Liga bout.

Barcelona’s Director of Football – and former teammate of Xavi – Eric Abidal and CEO Oscar Grau traveled to Doha, Qatar to meet with Xavi on Friday and watched Al-Sadd’s semi-final win on Saturday, which booked the club a spot in the final. Xavi, however, was tight-lipped about discussing what was said during their meeting.

“Abidal is my friend,” Xavi added, “I’ve met with him a lot of times. I respect Barcelona, I respect Valverde and I respect my contract. I’m doing my job here. I’ve been focussing on the semi-final and now I’m thinking about the final. I’m very happy to be coaching Al-Sadd and I respect this club a lot. I can’t say anything else.”

On Saturday, Al-Sadd confirmed that negotiations between Xavi and Barcelona for the former midfielder to return to Spain are ongoing. The Qatari club has dismissed the reports in the past, but Al-Sadd sporting director, Ghulam Al Balushi, confirmed otherwise following the game.

“There are negotiations between Xavi and Barcelona now and we wish him the best of luck wherever he goes,” Al Balushi expressed to Alkass.

A graduate from La Masia, Xavi spent 24 years at Barcelona, accumulating over 700 appearances and lifting eight La Liga titles and four Champions Leagues.

Orlando City hoping to secure prolific scorer from Pareja’s old club

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Orlando City is getting close to signing a veteran striker in the form of Argentine scorer German Cano, according to manager Oscar Pareja.

Cano has spent the last two seasons lighting up the scoreboard for longtime club Independiente Medellin, where he’s scored 94 times in 134 games in two stints (2012-14 and 2018-19).

[ MORE: MLS announces 2020 schedule ]

Cano will be 32 at the start of the season, and recorded 19 goals and six assists in parts of four seasons in Liga MX.

So there’s no guarantee he’ll walk into MLS and be Orlando’s missing striker, but Pareja will have a keen understanding of Cano due to their shared lineage at Independiente. Pareja was also born in Medellin.

Can he combine with Nani and Dom Dwyer to light up the scoreboard? Pareja has organized the right pieces at two different MLS clubs, but doing it in Orlando would be his biggest achievement.

Oscar Pareja back in MLS as Orlando City SC head coach

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Oscar Pareja has been named the fourth head coach of Orlando City SC, MLS’s proverbial revolving-door job, since the franchise joined the league five years ago.

[ MORE: Spurs’ Mourinho quotes Mandela in discussing Man United return ]

After spending 18 seasons with FC Dallas as a player, academy coach and head coach, Pareja left Dallas and MLS in November of 2018 to take over at Club Tijuana in Liga MX. The 51-year-old Colombian was relieved of his duties as Tijuana boss last week.

Pareja was highly regarded for his preference to play young, academy-developed players during his time in Dallas, something the hierarchy in Orlando will be hoping he can replicate while also guiding the Lions to their first-ever MLS Cup Playoffs appearance.

[ MORE: Agents made $650 million from player transfers in 2019 ]

“Oscar is the perfect fit for the Orlando City organization, something I can say with confidence from our history of working together,” Orlando City SC EVP of soccer operations Luiz Muzzi said in a team release. “He possesses the talent and passion to help our Club reach both its short term goals on the field and long-term plans for the organization. Oscar checked all the boxes we were looking to fill and his vision is aligned with the plans that we have as a Club – to invest in and develop players at all levels of our pyramid to be both proud and successful when wearing the Orlando City crest.”

La Liga roundup: Messi ties Ronaldo’s La Liga hat-trick record (video)

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Lionel Messi’s emphatic performance against Celta Vigo highlights La Liga’s Saturday action.

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Barcelona 4-1 Celta Vigo

There’s great, and then there’s Lionel Messi great.

Against Celta Vigo at Camp Nou on Saturday, the Argentine put together one of his finest performances this season, scoring a hat-trick in 48 minutes that included two free kicks. The hat trick marks Messi’s 34th of his La Liga career (459 games), tying Cristiano Ronaldo’s record.

“It’s clear that when it’s so close we have the advantage of having the best player in the world and the best free-kick taker in the world,” teammate Sergio Busquets said following the game. “He’s been improving and that’s an advantage, I hope he keeps scoring them.”

 

Messi opened the scoring in the 23rd minute from the penalty spot, only to commit the foul that would lead to Celta’s equalizer  – a well-placed free kick from Lucas Olaza – three minutes before the end of the second half.

If anything, the yellow card he earned and subsequent goal from the visitors served as motivation for Messi, because magic from Barcelona’s No. 10 was on its way.

Minutes before the whistle that would see both sides head into their respective dressing rooms, Messi netted his first well-stuck free kick. Minutes after both teams took the field after the break, his second inch-perfect free kick found the back of net. Both free kicks were fired over the wall and curled into the top corner.

Messi has scored nine goals in his last seven games throughout all competitions. With eight league goals to his name, only Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema has more goals than Messi’s seven this season.

In the 85th minute, Busquets’ strike from the top of the 18-yard mark helped Barcelona seal their victory, ending a two-game winless streak in league play.

Barcelona, who are now level with rivals Real Madrid with 25 points, travel to Leganes following the international break, defending, while Celta Vigo, who continue in a crisis despite recently appointing Oscar Garcia Junyent as manager, will look for their third win of the season against Villarreal.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Eibar 0 – 4 Real Madrid 

Alaves 3-0 Real Valladolid 

Valencia 2-0 Granada

James back in Colombia squad for friendlies in U.S.

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BOGOTA, Colombia — Midfielder James Rodriguez will return to Colombia’s national team after a four-match absence for two friendlies in the United States against Peru and Ecuador.

However, striker Radamel Falcao remains out with an Achilles injury.

Colombia coach Carlos Queiroz announced his squad of 34 players on Tuesday for matches on Nov. 15 against Peru in Miami and four days later against Ecuador in Harrison, New Jersey.

Rodriguez has not played for Colombia since this summer’s Copa America. He returned to Real Madrid this season after a year on loan at Bayern Munich.

Queiroz also called up strikers Juan Fernando Quintero and Rafael Santos Borre, who will play in the Copa Libertadores final for River Plate against Flamengo on Nov. 23.

Squad:

Goalkeepers: David Ospina (Napoli), Camilo Vargas (Atlas), Aldair Quintana (Atletico Nacional), Eder Chaux (Patriotas).

Defenders: Luis Orejuela (Cruzeiro), Stefan Medina (Monterrey), Santiago Arias (Atletico Madrid), Davinson Sanchez (Tottenham), Oscar Murillo (Pachuca), Yerry Mina (Everton), Jhon Lucumi (Genk), Jeison Murillo (Sampdoria), Cristian Borja (Sporting Lisbon), William Tesillo (Leon), Johan Mojica (Girona), Frank Fabra (Boca Juniors).

Midfielders: Wilmar Barrios (Zenit), Gustavo Cuellar (Al Hilal), Jorman Campuzano (Boca Juniors), Juan Cuadrado (Juventus), Jefferson Lerma (Bournemouth), Steven Alzate (Brighton), James Rodriguez (Real Madrid), Mateus Uribe (Porto), Yairo Moreno (Leon).

Strikers: Luis Muriel (Atalanta), Luis Sinisterra (Feyenoord), Steven Mendoza (Amiens), Roger Martinez (America de Mexico), Luis Diaz (Porto), Sebastian Villa (Boca Juniors), Alfredo Morelo