Xavi ‘hopeful’ of Barca return but Al Sadd stand firm

Xavi Hernandez wants a return to Barcelona but Al Sadd are not willing to let their manager leave at this stage of the Qatari club’s season.

Barcelona officials Rafa Yuste and Mateu Alemany travelled to Doha on Tuesday to try to negotiate Barca great Xavi’s release from Al Sadd and met with the former midfielder’s agents in Qatar on Wednesday.

The Catalan club are looking to replace Ronald Koeman, who was sacked last week following a poor start to the campaign.

Speaking after Al Sadd’s 3-3 draw with Al Duhail, which was watched by Barcelona’s delegates, Xavi said a return to his former side was “common sense” as negotiations continue.

“It’s been emotional. I don’t know what’s going to happen,” said Xavi. “The two clubs are in talks and we don’t know how things will pan out.

“I’m a very positive person and I think it’s common sense: the two clubs have to reach an agreement. The two clubs know my stance and I hope that everything will get sorted out soon.

Barcelona, who are ninth in La Liga, boosted their hopes of reaching the Champions League knockouts with a 1-0 win at Dynamo Kiev on Tuesday under the guidance of caretaker coach Sergi Barjuan.

Xavi added: “Whoever takes over as the Barcelona coach mustn’t be seen as a messiah. It’s a matter of building a team and bringing that feel-good factor and positivity back to the club. The Barcelona that we saw yesterday were already a different side.

“There’s a good team there that can achieve things, but we’ll see. We’ve all got to pull in the same direction. It’s an exciting step in my career. We’re all buzzing and it would be fantastic.”

Earlier on Wednesday, Al Sadd CEO Turki Al-Ali acknowledged the arrival of Barcelona’s officials, but insisted the club do not want to let Xavi leave.

“We welcome the visit of the administrative delegation from Barcelona, and we appreciate and respect this,” Al-Ali said in a statement on Al Sadd’s official Twitter account.

“The club’s position is clear from the beginning – we are committed to keeping our coach Xavi with us and we cannot have him leave at this sensitive time of the season.”

Spanish media reported that Xavi, who enjoyed an illustrious career with Barcelona from 1998 to 2015, has a release clause of €10m (£8.5m).

Xavi changes his tune

On Saturday, Xavi had said he was focused on his role as manager of Al Sadd amid speculation he could succeed Koeman.

Barca president Joan Laporta indicated on Friday that talks with the 41-year-old Xavi, who enjoyed a trophy-laden 17-year spell at the club, had advanced but no agreement had yet been reached.

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Barcelona president Joan Laporta says he has been in contact with Xavi over the last few weeks but refused to confirm whether he will replace Ronald Koeman as the club’s new head coach

“I’m currently focused on my work with Al Sadd and I cannot talk about anything else,” Xavi told a news conference on Friday.

In May, Xavi signed a contract to extend his stay in charge of Al Sadd for another two years.

He turned down the chance to coach Barcelona in January 2020 after Ernesto Valverde was dismissed, but was linked with the top job at the Camp Nou, even after Koeman succeeded Quique Setien.

Xavi has enjoyed great success since moving to Doha in 2019, winning seven major trophies for the reigning Qatar Stars League champions, who took to Twitter to insist their coach is not eyeing a move away.

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Laporta admits he should have sacked Koeman earlier than Wednesday night

“In response to what is circulating recently, the #AlSadd management reaffirms that Xavi has a two-year contract with the club and is fully focused on the team’s upcoming matches, to maintain our lead at the top of the league and to defend the title,” Al Sadd tweeted.

Barcelona are ninth in La Liga with 15 points from 10 games, nine points adrift of leaders Real Sociedad, and trailing second-placed Real Madrid by six points. They host Alaves on Saturday.

Pep: Xavi ready for Barcelona job

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Pep Guardiola has no doubts his former Barcelona team-mate Xavi is ready to become manager of the La Liga side

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola believes his former Barcelona team-mate is ready to become head coach at the Nou Camp.

Guardiola expressed his sympathy for Koeman following his sacking but says he has no doubts about Xavi’s ability to manage the Catalan club.

“Ronald and myself know exactly that we depend and live and we are there for the results,” said former Barcelona boss Guardiola.

“Nobody can survive without good results, not Koeman or Pep. All I can say is he’s a friend of mine, I wish him all the best, we can chat soon…

“Xavi – I don’t know what’s going to happen. In case it happens I don’t have any doubts he’s ready to do the job.

“He knows the game, he has passion and I’m pretty sure he has more experience now than I had when I took over.”