Ex-Barca great Xavi to go into coaching

Xavi Hernandez waves to fans at the Nou Camp in 2015 after he won the Champions League with Barcelona.
Xavi Hernandez waves to fans at the Nou Camp in 2015 after he won the Champions League with Barcelona.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

DOHA • Former Barcelona and Spain great Xavi Hernandez will retire from football at the end of the season to move into coaching, calling time on a trophy-laden career spanning two decades.

The former Barca captain, who made an all-time record of 767 appearances for the Spanish champions while winning 133 caps for Spain, confirmed he would be hanging up his boots in an open letter sent to members of the Spanish media on Thursday.

The statement read: "This is my last season as a player, but I am looking forward to seeing what the future holds for me as a coach.

"It has been a privilege to play football until 39 years of age and now, I would like to finish the season on a high by winning the Emir Cup and getting to the next phase of the Asian Champions League."

Revealing that his coaching style would reflect the way he was known for playing the game, he added: "I love seeing teams take the initiative on the field, play attacking football and return to the essence of what we all love from our childhood days - possession football."

Xavi made his debut for Barcelona in 1998 after coming through the club's famed La Masia academy and soon became the heartbeat of the team's midfield, winning eight LaLiga titles and four Champions League crowns before joining Qatari side Al Sadd in 2015.

He was one of the key players when Spain won their first and only World Cup in 2010 as well as their European Championship triumphs in 2008 and 2012, before eventually retiring from the national team after their early 2014 World Cup exit.

Last month, he helped Al Sadd win the Qatar Stars League, the country's top flight, while the team have also progressed to the quarter-finals of the Emir Cup.

His former teammates and clubs also paid tribute after news of his impending retirement broke, with Barcelona hailing him as a "football legend" on their Twitter account.

Andres Iniesta, who combined with Xavi to become one of the game's greatest double acts, called him "the best partner".

The midfielder, who now plays for J-League outfit Vissel Kobe, tweeted: "A privilege to grow and share at your side all my career and the best moments. Thank you for everything you've taught the world of football."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 04, 2019, with the headline 'Ex-Barca great Xavi to go into coaching'. Print Edition | Subscribe