Xavi Hernandez

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Xavi Hernandez to coach Qatari champion Al-Sadd

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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.

[ MORE: Arsenal-Chelsea preview ]

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.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Xavi: Guardiola is ‘my reference’ as a coach

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In the same way Johan Cruyff left a lasting impression on Pep Guardiola, Guardiola did the same with former Barcelona star Xavi.

In a wide-ranging interview with Spanish newspaper Marca, Xabi was asked which managers he admired as he himself nears retirement as a player. Xabi cited Maurizio Sarri, Unai Emery and Mauricio Pochettino but added it all starts for him with Guardiola.

[READ: Premier League odds]

“[Maurizio] Sarri’s Chelsea play well, even if not always,” Xavi said. “I like to see them for their assertiveness on the ball. Also Betis, [Unai] Emery’s Arsenal, Barcelona, Luis Enrique’s Spain and [Mauricio] Pochettino’s Tottenham. That’s without talking about Guardiola. who is the number one for this. He’s my reference as a coach.”

The former Barcelona midfielder also complimented Guardiola’s work at Manchester City.

“That players who never stood out before do so with Pep,” Xavi said. “Fernandinho, for example, now sees good passes. The defenders, [Nicolas] Otamendi, [John] Stones, [Aymeric] Laporte. You see them and say, ‘you can tell that Pep has given them tools for their development’.”

Theres nothing surprising about what Xavi said, though in the interview he also discussed his preferred style of play, holding onto the ball, taking risks to break the defensive lines. This is clearly similar to Guardiola.

Perhaps one day dozens of coaches will be on Guardiola’s coaching tree either as a former player or assistant coach.

Luis Enrique: “A magnificent, spectacular day” as Barcelona claim Champions League title

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Now that the champagne bottles have been popped, sprayed, guzzled and tossed into their proper locker room receptacles, Barcelona manager Luis Enrique and various Barca players have taken a few moments away from celebrating to speak to the media following the club’s fifth UEFA Champions League/European Cup triumph on Saturday.

[ FULL RECAP: Juventus 1-3 Barcelona ]

The mood is, of course, one of sheer joy and triumph for the Blaugrana, though that didn’t seem to deter them from comprehending and putting into proper perspective the club’s latest European title.

Below are a number of select quotes from Enrique and a number of Barcelona players…

Manager Luis Enrique: “A magnificent, spectacular day. I congratulate my players, a unique group of players, their talent and commitment has been beyond doubt.” …  From ESPNFC: “My challenge is to enjoy this moment at the time. And to have a good summer. The season is not over yet, we have a long night ahead of us now.” … “This is very nice, I am very happy. There was lots of tension, but this is a unique group of players, and spectacular fans. They are winners, they stick together, and they enjoy what they do, and make others enjoy it too.

Midfielder Xavi Hernandez: “Nothing can beat finishing [my Barca career] in this way.” … From ESPNFC: “There are no words, this is spectacular. I could not ask for more. To leave like this, with the Champions League, the treble. Brutal by the team, the fans, everything. I feel a bit nostalgic, knowing you are not going to play again for this team, that is hard. But I am very happy, with how my career has gone, and to finish with this game is incredible.” … “[Luis Enrique] deserves this. He has received lots of criticism, and kept working the same. He is a leader for this team. I celebrated with him, and all the staff, who did tremendous work. He deserves to stay, is the best option, but has not said anything. Now to enjoy this Treble, which is incredible.” … “This generation has made history. I am leaving, but they will keep making history. It is a fantastic team.” … “I never imagined we could win all the titles we were going for. But you try and do your job, to improve aspects of the play, but having these players of course brings you closer to success.”

Forward Luis Suarez: “When you come to a team like Barca, you know that you have come to win. This is a dream.” … “You can’t ask for more. These three titles, and finish it by winning the Champions League. The truth is that I don’t have words to express the happiness or the grandeur of this team this season. This has been one of a kind.”

Midfielder Andres Iniesta: “We won’t see this happen again very often. Six years later we did (the treble) again. All my words fall short. Let the people enjoy this Barca.”

Iniesta salutes ‘Captain, teammate and friend’ Xavi, who continues his tearful goodbyes to Barca

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Hopefully Xavi gets the majority of his post-Barca tears out of his system before Saturday’s UEFA Champions League final, but there’s no denying that leaving Barcelona is not easy for Mr. Hernandez.

The legendary midfielder hasn’t even played his final match for the Blaugranas, but couldn’t stop the tears as the club bid him adieu ahead of Saturday’s UEFA Champions League final against Juventus.

[ XAVI: Cannot stop crying ]

Xavi, 35, is off to prop up the profile of Qatari soccer with a gig at Al Saad that will pay him well over the next three years, but the Barca legend hasn’t yet come to terms with his departure from the Camp Nou.

Al Saad is the club he’s joining, not his alter ego during his final days at Barca.

From the Daily Mail:

‘Captain, team-mate and friend. We can’t imagine the first work out of next season without you. It’s been a privilege to play alongside you,’ he said.

‘Thanks, Xavi, for always being an example, for always putting the group before yourself. Thanks for all your advice. Thank you Xavi, for all those years, for all the talks, about football and other things. Those who know you know you will be back.’

Xavi is the longest serving and most decorated Barca player, having joined at the age of 11, and he eventually took to the stage to pay tribute to the club.

‘I want to thank every member and every fan, I’m very grateful,’ he said at the event.

‘The trophies are nothing compared to the laughs I had here and the friends I’m leaving behind.’

So… don’t go?

We kid (sort of). Xavi’s 43 appearances this season were his fewest since 2005-06, when he tore ligaments in his knee. It’d be nice to see him continue his ride off into the sunset as a one-club man, something akin to what Paul Scholes or Ryan Giggs did, especially given that Barca’s transfer ban runs through January.

The club saluted him with its own hashtag #6raciesXavi (Get it?), which begs whether it’s a more clever use than the Landon Donovan #LegenD tag (This is one area where we think the Galaxy wins over Barca).

Godspeed, Al.

VIDEO: Behind the scenes with Xavi Hernandez before his final game at the Camp Nou

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On Saturday, Xavi Hernandez, arguably the greatest midfielder of all time and unquestionably the best of his generation, played his final competitive game at Barcelona’s famed Nou Camp stadium, the only home arena he’s ever known during his legendary 17-year career.

[ MORE: Xavi’s tearful goodbye and confirmation of his move to Qatar ]

We saw how emotional the 35-year-old got as he was subbed off in the game’s final minutes, but what we didn’t see was how the midfield maestro handled the entire afternoon leading up to his final Camp Nou performance. Until now.

The above video, produced by FC Barcelona’s fantastic digital team, takes us all along for the ride — quite literally — as the greatest midfield player of (most of) our lifetimes readied himself for an emotional farewell.

[ TOP 5: Storylines ahead of Barcelona vs. Juventus UEFA Champions League final ]

Was Xavi feeling the entire gamut of emotions and nerves ahead of his final game at the Camp Nou? Of course he was, but you’d never know it by his calm, composed demeanor from the time he walked through his front door, to the time he led the Blaugrana onto the field one last time.

Unfazed and unflappable, as if he was hitting just another of a thousand 60-yard through balls.