Former Barcelona midfielder Xavi Hernandez set to become new head coach at the Nou Camp; Al Sadd agree to let Xavi depart from his managerial role after Barca pay release clause to Qatari club; Xavi to replace Ronald Koeman, who was sacked last week
Saturday 6 November 2021 07:48, UK
Former Barcelona midfielder Xavi Hernandez is set to become the club's new head coach after Al Sadd agreed to allow him to return to the Nou Camp.
The Qatari club have allowed Xavi to return to Spain after Barcelona paid a release clause to acquire the services of their former captain.
The 41-year-old is set to replace Ronald Koeman, who was sacked last week following a poor start to the campaign.
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."
Xavi left Barcelona in 2015 after helping the club win 25 trophies, including four Champions Leagues and eight La Liga titles, in 17 seasons.
The former Spain international joined Al Sadd as a player in 2015 and became their head coach after hanging up his boots in 2019.
In April, he led his side to the Qatari domestic league title with the team remaining unbeaten.
Xavi Hernandez going back at Barcelona is a moment laced with meaning. For a club that appears to have lost its identity, the return of the man who came to define the style of play for one of the world's greatest-ever teams is undeniably symbolic.
Lionel Messi might have been a god at the Nou Camp, but Xavi was the defender of the faith, always the most vocal advocate of the Barcelona way. Even as a player, he espoused the virtues of the passing game, the possession football honed under Pep Guardiola.
Everyone in Barcelona knows how Xavi sees the game. Fewer fans are aware of what a Xavi team actually looks like - but for the past two years, he has been in charge of Al Sadd in Qatar. Strip away the emotion and the sentiment and who is Xavi, the coach?
Speak to those who have studied his teams closer than anyone else and it seems the 41-year-old Catalan has spent his time practising precisely what he has long preached.
Bjarki Mar Olafsson knows Xavi's methods better than most. He is head of scouting and match analysis for Al Arabi in the Qatar Stars League. In December, Xavi's side narrowly defeated Al Arabi in the final of the Emir of Qatar Cup. Olafsson did the analysis.
"I have been here analysing and dissecting Al Sadd ever since he took over," he tells Sky Sports. "I have put a lot of hours into watching his teams and his playing style.
"Just to follow his approach from when he started to where he is now has been really interesting because people do not really realise the work that he has been doing at Al Sadd.
"I think it is a major simplification to just talk about Barcelona and that tiki-taka football because what he is doing is quite innovative and really exciting in terms of his style of play."