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Xavi won eight league titles and four Champions League finals during his time as a player with Barcelona

Xavi won eight league titles and four Champions League finals during his time as a player with Barcelona

Xavi won eight league titles and four Champions League finals during his time as a player with Barcelona

Barcelona are closing in on the appointment of Xavi Hernandez as their new head coach following the sacking of Ronald Koeman on Wednesday night.

Xavi, an academy product who made 767 senior appearances for the club, is ready to return to his former team as they look to kickstart their campaign and rebuild amid a gruelling financial crisis.

The pursuit of the 41-year-old has been complicated by the need to negotiate his departure from Qatari side Al Sadd, although Spanish sources expect matters to be resolved. Meanwhile, Sergi Barjuan, another academy graduate who played for the first team, and who coaches the club’s B side, has stepped in as interim manager.

Koeman was fired following Barcelona’s 1-0 defeat at Rayo Vallecano, which left them in ninth place in the league. They are also struggling in the Champions League, having lost two of their opening three games of the campaign.

Xavi, with no European coaching experience, has managed Al Sadd since 2019. He is a legend at Barcelona, having won eight league titles and four Champions League trophies in his 17 years as a player.

The former Spain international was a key member of Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona team from 2008 to 2012, and the club will hope he can replicate the success and all-conquering style of that side. Guardiola was similarly inexperienced as a coach when he took over at the Nou Camp, having spent only one year in charge of the B team.

Xavi was first approached for the Barcelona job at the start of 2020 but turned down the offer as he did not feel it was the right moment to make his return.

Speaking this summer, he said he was now ready to manage the club.

“I don’t know when the moment will arrive but, for me, it would be a dream to return to Barca one day,” he added. “I am in no rush, honestly, but I hope it happens. I understand people may think I am not ready, but I want to make it clear that I am.”

In Catalonia it had long been considered only a matter of time before Koeman was dismissed by Joan Laporta, the club’s president. Koeman had been appointed by former president Josep Maria Bartomeu, with Laporta now looking to install his own man in the dugout.

Koeman’s position had become untenable, with the Dutchman abused by supporters after Sunday’s defeat by Real Madrid. The club condemned the “violent and disdainful acts” towards the 58-year-old, who described those who abused him as “uneducated people”.

If Xavi’s appointment is completed as expected, he will have to swiftly take control of an unbalanced squad who have been ravaged by the club’s financial crisis.

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The disastrous off-field situation led to the departures of Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann this summer, with Barcelona only signing players on free transfers. The most high-profile of those arrivals, Sergio Aguero, has made only four appearances because of injury.

There is optimism over the club’s young talent, however, with a series of academy graduates featuring regularly for the senior side. Among them, Pedri Gonzalez and Ansu Fati are regarded as future stars, while midfielder, Gavi, recently became Spain’s youngest international. There are also high hopes for the likes of Ronald Araujo, Nico Gonzalez, Sergino Dest and Eric Garcia.

Xavi will also have the task of managing some former team-mates. Sergio Busquets, Jordi Alba and Gerard Pique all played alongside him for club and country.


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Telegraph Media Group Limited [2021]


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