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Xavi confirms he rejected Barcelona job

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Barcelona legend Xavi has confirmed he rejected the chance to return as their manager as it was “not the right time” for him.

Xavi, 39, is currently coaching Qatari side Al Sadd and Barcelona’s sporting director Eric Abidal and chief executive Oscar Garu spoke with him last week about replacing former manager Ernesto Valverde.

Experienced coach Quique Setien replaced Valverde and Xavi has told Spanish outlet Mundo Deportivo that this opportunity came too early in his coaching career as the midfielder, who played 767 times for Barca and won 25 trophies in his glittering 17-year career with the Catalan club, has only been a coach for six months in Qatar.

“Yes, it’s true that I have had a proposal from Barcelona, they were here to talk with me, but I didn’t accept because I didn’t feel that this was a good time for me,” said Xavi. “I’m very grateful to Barca, Abidal and Grau for this proposal. Of course, it’s my dream to coach Barca, but it’s not the right time. I have to be honest with you and everybody.”

Setien certainly gets Xavi’s blessing as Barca’s new coach, as the former Las Palmas and Real Betis manager is known for his attractive, attacking play and follows the coaching principles of Johan Cruyff.

“Of course Quique Setien (the new coach) is ready to coach Barcelona. I love him as a coach. My heart is for Barcelona and now it is for Quique Setien. I wish him all the best, this is the truth, this is what happened,” Xavi added.

World Cup winner Xavi will no doubt manage Barcelona one day (his current contract with Al Saad runs for another 18 months) and if the likes of Steven Gerrard turns up at Liverpool in the coming years, and Frank Lampard and Zinedine Zidane continue at Chelsea and Real Madrid respectively, it will be like 2005 all over again…

There’s no doubting the incredible experience all of these former legendary players have but some would suggest that being hired by the clubs where they made their names as players is an easy out for the hierarchy who know that the fans will get behind the manager and it will be a less risky appointment.

Atletico Madrid eyeing Lacazette, reportedly could swap Lemar

Arsenal transfer rumors
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Atletico Madrid is looking to buttress its bid to win La Liga with an Arsenal forward, according to multiple reports

Alexandre Lacazette is the man in question, and he had been linked with Atleti when he signed with the Gunners in 2017.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Lacazette, 28, has a contract at Arsenal through the 2021/22 season and has scored 42 goals with 20 assists in 107 appearances. Thirty-two of those goals have come in the Premier League to go with 17 assists.

Italian reporter Tancredi Palmeri says Atleti has made contact with Arsenal, while Marca says the Gunners will be tempted by a longtime rumored target of their own. The same report says that Lacazette is the club’s “Plan B” for Edinson Cavani.

[ MORE: Monday’s transfer deals ]

That’s Thomas Lemar, who landed in Madrid after a celebrated career at Monaco. Now 24, the World Cup-winning left wing has yet to record a goal or an assist in 21 matches this season.

Does it make sense? That depends on Mikel Arteta‘s plans for the strike force, which is loaded with playmakers like Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Mesut Ozil, Nicolas Pepe, and a bevy of promising youngsters.

Reports: Barcelona fires Valverde, hiring former Betis boss Setien

Barcelona makes managerial change
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Quique Setien is set to replace Ernesto Valverde at Barcelona, according to numerous reports in Spain.

The former Las Palmas and Real Betis boss, 61, would be a surprise successor to be sure.

Valverde has been under fire for Barca’s uneven season, though that phrase happens to describe a tie for first in La Liga with rivals Real Madrid.

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According to Marca, “The Barcelona board approved the decision for the 61-year-old to become the new Blaugrana boss unanimously, with the former Betis coach’s stock having gone up since this morning.”

The club has not announced any changes. Reporter Guillem Balague says the silence from Barcelona is down to the resolution of Valverde’s contract with the Catalan club.

He also proffers a thread with lofty praise for Setien.

Barcelona’s attack has been lethal but it’s defending subpar; Valverde’s proverbial hot seat was engulfed in flames when the Blaugranas wasted a 2-1 lead in the Spanish Super Cup semifinal versus Atletico Madrid.

Valverde led Barcelona to La Liga titles in both of his full seasons in charge, but disappointing collapses in the Champions League soured the domestic triumphs.

Defending will become even more important with Luis Suarez out for four months.

There’s time to get sorted for the stretch run, with a manageable run of fixtures. There’s Valencia away as the stiffest challenge of a half-dozen La Liga outings before Napoli arrives for the Champions League Round of 16, followed by the away El Clasico.

Valverde set to lead Barca training despite Xavi reports

Valverde in question as Barcelona speaks with Xavi
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It’s all a mess at Barcelona, as messy as it can be for a table-leading side.

Barca threw away a spot in the Spanish Super Cup Final with more miserable game management and defending versus Atletico Madrid at midweek, heaping pressure on Ernesto Valverde.

He may just pack up and leave given the weekend’s news that Barcelona director of football Eric Abidal flew to Qatar to meet with Xavi Hernandez about the manager’s position.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Valverde, it’s worth noting, has won La Liga in both of his seasons in charge of the squad. Valverde’s Barca is level with Real Madrid on 40 points, five points ahead of Atleti and Sevilla.

Al Sadd executive director Turki Al-Ali issued a statement saying it is “normal and expected” that Xavi will one day leave for Barcelona, but that nothing is imminent. Reuters correspondent Richard Martin says Xavi has not decided his future, though an AS report claims he wants the job in the summer.

All this leaves the two-time reigning league winner in a rough spot, Valverde wondering what’s next. El Pais suspects Barca may need a bridge manager.

To be frank, Valverde’s roster aside from elite weapons Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, and Antoine Griezmann seems stuck between too old and too green. Messi is having perhaps the best season in the world, but Suarez undergoes surgery on Sunday and Griezmann still growing into his Blaugrana shoes.

But the massive chances coughed up to Atleti at midweek were too familiar, and Barca needs some fresh ideas to shore up their structure. Frenkie de Jong and Ansu Fati aren’t going to fix the back.

There’s time to get sorted for the stretch run, with a manageable run of fixtures. There’s Valencia away as the stiffest challenge of a half-dozen La Liga outings before Napoli arrives for the Champions League Round of 16, followed by the away El Clasico.

Will Valverde be the man overseeing any of it?

Barcelona’s Suarez to undergo knee surgery, out indefinitely

Luis Suarez undergoes knee surgery
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Barcelona’s trip to Saudi Arabia sees it back in Spain all sorts of grumpy.

First the Blaugranas fell apart at the back after Antoine Griezmann and Lionel Messi gave them a second half lead over Atletico Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup Final.

The 3-2 loss has now been joined by a significant injury to Luis Suarez, who went 90 minutes and assisted Messi’s goal in the overseas semifinal.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Suarez is having surgery on his right knee on Sunday, the second-straight season the ex-Liverpool man has required a procedure on his knee.

It’s not as simple as copying and pasting that recovery time, as he went under the knife with just three matches left in the La Liga season. His first missed match was May 4 and the Copa del Rey final was May 25.

Barcelona has been linked with forwards in the transfer window as the club looks to firm up both La Liga and UEFA Champions League credentials.

The Uruguayan has 14 goals and 11 assists in 23 matches this season. He’s scored at least 20 goals in a season every year since 2011/12, his first season with Liverpool.

From the international angle, Uruguay begins World Cup qualifying on March 26 versus Chile.