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Barcelona have been dealt a blow in their quest to appoint Xavi Hernandez as their next manager after Al-Sadd released a statement reaffirming the Barca icon’s position as head coach.
Xavi has been strongly linked with the job, even before Ronald Koeman was finally relieved of his duties on Wednesday night.
A 1-0 defeat against Rayo Vallecano was the final straw for Barca president Joan Laporta, who is widely understood to have sensationally sacked Koeman mid-flight on the way home from Madrid.
The Dutchman’s car was attacked by supporters following the club’s El Clasico defeat by Real Madrid last weekend as fan unrest reached a boiling point.
Koeman was handed a run of games to save his job but his position was made untenable after a disappointing loss to Vallecano. Former Chelsea and Manchester United forward Radamel Falcao scored the only goal.
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Several names have been linked with succeeding Koeman, but financial restraints are likely to prevent a big-name appointment.
Club legend Xavi is the favourite, and the Guardian reported on Thursday that a deal had been agreed for the former Spain star to take charge.
However, Xavi’s current club, Qatar side Al-Sadd, have said that the 41-year-old is ‘fully focused’ on the club’s upcoming matches in a stinging blow to Barca.
A statement read: “In response to what’s circulating recently, the Al-Sadd management reaffirms that Xavi has a two-year contract with the club and is fully focused on the team’s upcoming matches.”
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Xavi became a legendary figure at Barca during his 17 years as a player.
He won eight LaLiga titles and helped the Catalan club win the Champions League four times, playing a starring role in midfield.
Koeman departed Barca with them languishing in ninth in the Spanish top-flight and having already lost three of their 10 matches.
They have also been comfortably defeated in two of their three Champions League group stage clashes, leaving a new boss with work to do to qualify for the knockout phase of a competition they previously dominated.
A brief club statement confirmed Koeman’s departure on Wednesday night.
It said: “Ronald Koeman will say goodbye to the squad on Thursday at the Ciutat Esportiva.
“FC Barcelona wishes to thank him for his service to the club and wishes him all the best in his professional career.”
Koeman had said after his final game: “It (the club’s league position) says we’re not well.
“The team has lost balance in the squad, lost very effective players, which shows. In recent years other clubs have strengthened every season and we haven’t, which also shows.”
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