Barcelona to appoint former midfielder Xavi as new manager after sacking Ronald Koeman

Barcelona are set to appoint former captain Xavi Hernandez as their new head coach, after his current club agreed to let him return to the Nou Camp.

The former Spanish midfielder was the leading candidate to take over from Dutchman Ronald Koeman and reports emerged on 29 October that Joan Laporta, the club’s president, had been in contact with Xavi over the last few weeks.

The World Cup winner has been managing Qatari side Al Sadd since he retired in 2019, but the club has allowed Xavi to return to Spain after Barcelona paid a release clause to acquire his services.

Al Sadd chief executive Turki Al-Ali said: “Xavi informed us a few days ago of his desire to go to Barcelona at this particular time, because of the critical stage his hometown club is going through, and we understand this and decided not to stand in his way.

“The Al Sadd administration has agreed on Xavi’s move to Barcelona after the payment of the release clause stipulated in the contract. We’ve agreed on cooperation with Barcelona in the future.

“Xavi is an important part of Al Sadd’s history and we wish him success.”

The 41-year-old will have a major rebuilding job on his hands – with Barcelona well off the pace in La Liga and in third place in their Champions League group.

The Spanish giants began the season after a turbulent summer that saw the loss of star player Lionel Messi to Paris Saint Germain amid financial trouble.

In August, Mr Laporta revealed the club had 1.35bn euro (£1.15bn) worth of debt, adding that club salaries represented 103% of income.

Several key players took pay cuts so the club could afford to renew Messi’s contract but still could not afford his wages, and the Argentine swapped Spain for France.

Pressure had been building on Koeman since a 3-0 defeat at Benfica in late September, which made this season the club’s worst-ever start to a Champions League campaign.

Barca then succumbed to a 2-0 away loss to Atletico Madrid in La Liga on 2 October, while their 2-1 loss in the El Clasico was Koeman’s third in a row to Real Madrid, and after the final whistle, the Barcelona boss was targeted by a crowd of fans who attacked his car as he tried to drive away from the stadium.

Xavi spent most of his career at the Catalan club, joining their famed La Masia youth academy in 1991 before leaving the club in 2015.

He made 505 appearances for Barcelona, after breaking into the first team in 1999. He was named vice-captain in the 2004-05 season and captain in his final season.

The Spanish midfielder won a host of trophies during his time in the Spanish capital, including four Champions League and eight domestic titles – forming a formidable midfield partnership with Iniesta, and Sergio Busquets.

He left Spain for Al Sadd in 2015, making 82 appearances before retiring in 2019 and taking over as the club’s manager in the same year.

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