Xavi Hernandez

Valverde in question as Barcelona speaks with Xavi
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Valverde set to lead Barca training despite Xavi reports

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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.

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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?

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.

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.

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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.

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.

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“[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.”