Al Sadd defiant despite Xavi linked with Barcelona top job

Sajith B Warrier

Bengaluru, January 11: Ernesto Valverde appears to be running out of time at Barcelona, with Xavi reportedly poised to take over as head coach at Camp Nou.

Barcelona lost 2-3 to Atletico Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup semifinals in Saudi Arabia on Thursday, piling more scrutiny on Valverde.

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Spanish media widely reported on Friday that Barcelona officials including chief executive Oscar Grau and technical secretary Eric Abidal had travelled to Doha.

The purpose of the trip was said to be a meeting with former Barcelona and Spain midfielder Xavi, who is currently in charge of Qatar Stars League (QSL) champions Al Sadd.

Reportedly, the meeting was scheduled in order for Barcelona to offer Xavi the position as coach for the next two seasons, starting at the end of the current campaign.

However, Spanish sports dailies Marca and AS both reported that Thursday's chaotic defeat to Atletico led Barca to propose Xavi takes over immediately, replacing Valverde.

Xavi, now 39, won eight La Liga titles and four UEFA Champions League trophies during his time at Camp Nou.

Meanwhile Al Sadd issued a statement insisting Xavi remained fully focused on the team's QSL match against Al Rayyan on Saturday.

"The issue of Xavi going to Barcelona is normal and expected because he will be at his club and it's his first home and he must return there in the future, but as of today, Xavi is the coach of Al Sadd," general manager Turki Al Ali said in a statement released on the club's official website.

"Xavi and his team are focusing on Saturday's match against Al Rayyan, and we know that a club with the size and professionalism of Barcelona will take to official channels to speak of such matters."

Xavi has long been touted to follow in the footsteps of fellow former Blaugrana midfielder Pep Guardiola and take over at Barcelona.

Valverde, meanwhile, appeared to be close to losing his job at the end of last season, following Barca's capitulation in the Champions League semi-finals and a defeat to Valencia in the Copa del Rey final.

Netherlands coach Ronald Koeman was among the names linked to replacing Valverde, but the former Athletic Bilbao boss - who has guided Barca to successive LaLiga triumphs - retained his position.

(With inputs from Omnisport)

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