Barcelona have named former midfield legend Xavi as their new head coach after securing his release from Qatari team Al Sadd, the Spanish giants have said.
The 41-year-old Xavi made 767 appearances for Barca as a player having come through the club's youth system and won 25 trophies, including four Champions Leagues, has replaced Dutch coach Ronald Koeman who was dismissed last week.
The club said in a statement early Saturday that Xavi would be coach for the remainder of the current season and the next two.
Xavi left Barcelona in 2015 to conclude his playing career with Al Sadd and has coached the team since 2019. He won the Qatari league last season and has also claimed various cup competitions.
Al Sadd chief executive officer Turki Al-Ali said the move to Barcelona was agree "after the payment of the release clause stipulated in the contract," which ran to 2023, and "we’ve agreed on cooperation with Barcelona in the future."
Reports in Spain question the details of the payment, however, but it is clear some kind of deal has been reached. Retaining the coach against his will would have been difficult for Al Sadd given his immense association with Barcelona.
"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," Al-Ali said.
As a player Xavi was renowned as an outstanding passer of the ball in midfield and with Spain won the European Championships of 2008 and 2012 either side of the 2010 World Cup.
Disappointing eighth place
He has now been tasked with turning around the fortunes of Barcelona, who are a disappointing eighth in the Primera Division as they battle financial difficulties which led to the recent departure of Xavi's former team-mate Lionel Messi to Paris Saint-Germain.
Barcelona, who face Celta Vigo later Saturday, said Xavi is expected to arrive in the city over the weekend before a public presentation and press conference on Monday.
Interim coach Sergi Barjuan will lead the team for the last time on Saturday having drawn at Alaves and won 1-0 at Dynamo Kiev in midweek to retain hopes of reaching the Champions League knock-out phase.
Xavi will have no shortage of work to do, limited time to do it and his status will only protect him so long.
Koeman was also a playing legend with Barcelona having scored the winning goal in their first European Cup final back in 1992 but was still given little over a season in charge regardless of the difficult circumstances surrounding the team.