Barcelona: Barcelona legend Xavi Hernandez will leave the Catalan club he has served since boyhood for Qatari side Al Sadd at the end of this season, his father said on Tuesday.
Barcelona's Xavi Hernandez
"The moment has come for Xavi to say goodbye," the 35-year-old midfielder's father Joaquin Hernandez told radio Cope. He said the contract with Al Sadd would allow Xavi, presently the team captain, to train as a coach as well as playing. "He is lucky to have received a really impressive offer that allows him to continue playing football, train as a future coach and also rest a little."
Xavi is Barcelona's most decorated player of all time and one of the heroes of Spain's Euro and World Cup-winning squads. In March he met with managers of Al Sadd, which announced on social media that he had signed with the club but the Qatari side then said the deal had not yet been sealed. Xavi will personally announce the move during a press conference on Thursday, Spanish media reported.
His contract with the Spanish league champions runs until next year but the club had already made it clear that it would not stand in the way of his departure. "Xavi has earned the right to decide his future," Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu said in March when asked about the reports that the iconic playmaker had agreed to a move to Qatar.
The player will be following in the footsteps of Real Madrid legend Raul who played 39 games for Al Sadd, one of Qatar's top clubs, between 2012 and 2014, before joining the New York Cosmos in October 2014. Barcelona sealed the league title on Sunday with a 1-0 win away over 2014 champions Atletico Madrid.
Xavi was filmed weeping with joy after that win. It is his eighth title in the league and his 23rd overall with Barcelona, making him the player with most medals in the club's history. He still has the chance to end his last season at Barcelona with a treble, as his side will play in the finals of the Spanish cup and Champions League.
'Instrumental to the club'
Xavi joined Barcelona in 1991 at the age of 11. He has played more than 760 matches for the side -- more than any other player. The transfer will bring the curtain down on a 17-year first-team playing career with Barcelona, during which time Xavi has so far won three Champions League titles and two FIFA Club World Cups in addition to the eight La Liga championships.
He was also an integral part of Spain's World Cup-winning side in 2010 and their two European Championship triumphs in 2008 and 2012. Beyond mere figures, he will also be remembered as being a central figure of Barcelona's revolutionary 'tiki-taka' style of football, which relies on possession and passing, and helped the Catalan side to become arguably the dominant team in Europe in the first decade of the century.
His departure follows that of other club heavyweights in recent years such as defender Carles Puyol and goalkeeper Victor Valdes. Xavi almost left Barcelona at the end of last season after the Catalan side failed to win any silverware but was reportedly convinced by coach Luis Enrique to stay on. He has spent much of this season relegated to the bench although Enrique has relied on him during decisive matches.
"I don't think there will be another player like him. He is an unique, inimitable player who has been instrumental to the club and the national team," Barcelona midfielder Andres Iniesta said at a publicity event. Xavi's signing is one of the biggest coups for Qatari domestic football in a country set to host the 2022 World Cup. Al Sadd competed in the Club World Cup in 2011, finishing third after being knocked out by Barcelona in the semi-finals. Reports suggest that Xavi will sign a three-year contract, with his role to combine coaching as well.