Barcelona and Al-Sadd set for ugly Xavi stand-off after latest declaration from Qatar club

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Barcelona’s pursuit to hire former midfielder Xavi as their new head coach could be set to turn ugly after his current club refused to release him. Qatari outfit Al-Sadd released a strong statement on Wednesday insisting they will not entertain the idea of their manager leaving to return to Camp Nou.

The Catalan giants are searching for a new boss after sacking Ronald Koeman in October following the 1-0 defeat by Rayo Vallecano.

Barca have won both games under the guidance of interim coach Sergi Barjuan, beating Dynamo Kiev to put their Champions League campaign back on track.

But it is understood that president Joan Laporta is keen to deliver on his promise to install Xavi as their next manager.

Barcelona officials were reportedly spotted in Doha for talks with Al-Sadd and Xavi’s agent during their 3-3 draw with Al-Duhail on Wednesday.

But the club are standing firm on the Spaniard’s future, insisting their chance has not changed since and won’t be leaving.

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Their statement read: “We welcome the visit of the delegation from Barça, we respect them,” Al-Sadd CEO Turki Al-Ali said.

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

Spain legend Xavi played 779 games and won 25 major honours for Barca between 1998 and 2015 before spending the last four years of his career with Al Sadd.

He took over as head coach after retiring in 2019 and led them to last season’s league title. They are unbeaten in 36 league games.

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When offered the job in August 2020, Xavi turned down the role as he claimed he was not ready for the top job.

But he now admits he wants to return “home” after spending six years in Qatar and pleaded with his employers to grant his wish.

“I’m really excited about coming home, hopefully it can happen,” Xavi said.

“The clubs are talking. I can’t say much but I’m a positive person.

“It’s about common sense. They need to reach an agreement. That’s the issue.

“Now the two clubs have to negotiate. They know my position.”

Barca have been left in a difficult position in the league following Koeman’s departure.

The Blaugrana are currently ninth after 10 games and are nine points adrift of leaders Real Sociedad.

The loss of Lionel Messi, who departed on a free transfer to join Paris Saint-Germain has had an immeasurable impact.

Messi, 34, had been set to renew his contract with the club before it became clear the club could not afford to keep him and abide by LaLiga’s new salary cap.

And despite the emergence of young stars such as Pedri and Gavi over the past 12 months, Barcelona have struggled to replace Messi’s 30 goals last season

But with club legend Xavi likely to return, the LaLiga giants will be hoping to put themselves back on track to challenge Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid and Real Sociedad.

“Whoever takes over as the Barcelona coach mustn’t be seen as a messiah,” Xavi added.

“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.”

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