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Xavi would love Barcelona job if he can ditch ‘toxic’ personalities

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Two months can go a long way and, hey, self-isolation gives plenty of time for internal examination.

Al-Sadd manager Xavi Hernandez, the legendary Barcelona midfielder, says he’s ready to lead the Blaugranas, two-and-a-half months after rejecting the job.

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“Maybe years ago I could give myself some respect, but now that I have seen myself coaching I think I can bring things to the players,” said Xavi, via Marca. “But I made it clear to them that I saw myself in a project that started from zero, and in which the decision making was mine.”

Barcelona leads La Liga by two points with 11 matches to play and zero Clasicos left on the docket. Current boss Quique Setien took over for Ernesto Valverde in January.

Setien has overseen six wins and two losses in La Liga play. Barca was also eliminated from the Copa del Rey and drew Napoli in the away leg of the Champions League Round of 16.

Setien has been tasked with sorting out a club that’s a bit messy from top-to-bottom, and that might be kind. Xavi is wary of that, too.

“I would like to be very in tune with everyone,” Xavi said. “There can’t be anyone in the dressing room who is negative, toxic, and the medical issue is important. Everything has to fit. I’d like to go in with people from my environment to make a good team.”

Al-Sadd has won 57 percent of its matches with Xavi at the wheel, including the Qatar Cup and the Qatar Super Cup. Barcelona is a leap forward, though.

Xavi went as far as to speculate which current players should be lynchpins for Barcelona, and which ones should be targeted from other clubs.

He loves former teammates Lionel Messi, Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba, and Marc-Andre ter Stegen, and says midfielders Frenkie de Jong and Arthur fit the bill.

Xavi said he’d like to see Bayern Munich’s Serge Gnabry and Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho in blue and red, but doubted the oft-discussed return of PSG star Neymar.

“I would sign wingers, like Neymar. I do not know if he would fit in a non-football sense, but football-wise I do not have doubts that he would be a spectacular transfer. Barcelona already have a style of play in the middle of the park… but they lack wingers like Bayern have. There don’t need to be many new ones: Jadon Sancho, Serge Gnabry… .”

It’s not difficult to read into Xavi’s statements; He felt he was ready for the job in January, but didn’t want to step in during a brutal time at the club. While it’s not the resolve you’d like from a club legend you can respect it.

Xavi Hernandez to coach Qatari champion Al-Sadd

Photo by Barrington Coombs/Getty Images
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DOHA, Qatar (AP) Barcelona great Xavi Hernandez will begin his coaching career with Qatari club Al-Sadd.

Al-Sadd says Xavi is taking charge of the team he helped become Qatari league champion this season.

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The 39-year-old midfielder played four seasons with Al-Sadd after a storied 17-year career with Barcelona.

Xavi played a club record 767 games for Barcelona and helped the club win four Champions Leagues and eight Spanish leagues. He also played in Spain’s title-winning teams at the 2010 World Cup and 2008 and 2012 European Championships.

Al-Sadd says Xavi’s squad will gather in Barcelona in July for a pre-season training camp in the Catalonia region.

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Christian ‘Chucho’ Benítez earns huge transfer from Club América to Qatar

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It’s a big loss for Mexico as well as CONCACAF in general, but it’s not often you see somebody pay $15 million to take a player from the region, not to mention the massive wages it probably took to convince Christian “Chucho” Benítez to leave Club América for Qatar. But that’s exactly what El Jaish has managed to do, beating Premier League sides Tottenham Hotspur and Swansea City to the 27-year-old Ecuadorian.

El Jaish finished last year’s Qatari Stars league 11 points behind league-leading El Sadd, a late season swoon opening a gap between them and second place Lekhwiya. Their third place finish allowed the club to qualify for the next Asian Champions League.

Benítez represents part of the buildup for that competition, El Jaish adding the América star to a squad captain edby former Marseille midfielder Karim Ziani, one that has also added Korean Go Seul-Ki from 2012 Champions League winners Ulsan Hyundai.

Benítez, who scored 52 goals in 79 games after joining América two years ago, will make his second excursion beyond the Western Hemisphere, the former occurring during the 2009-10 English Premier League season. Then, Santos Laguna loaned Benítez to Birmingham City, where 30 appearances and 21 starts produced only three goals.

When Birmingham City elected not to make Benítez’s loan permanent, the striker moved back to Santos and scored 20 times in 35 games, closing his career in Torreón with 51 goals across three seasons.

The Qatar league is currently home to a number of other names who will be known to wider audiences. Former Real Madrid attacker Raúl scored nine goals while helping Al Sadd to the league title. Former Villarreal forward Nilmar was the league’s second leading goal scorer, recording 14 goals for Al Rayyan, while former Campeonato standout posted nine goals for Al Gharafa.

Former Bolton Wanderer Andranik Teymourian, former Marseille attacker Bakari Kone, PSG exile Nene, former Spartak Moscow star Alex, and Algerian defenders Mahjid Bougherra and Nadir Belhadj also play in the league.