Barcelona have been left in limbo after their former midfielder Xavi Hernández turned down an offer to take over as manager of the club.
Barcelona’s sporting director, Eric Abidal, and chief executive, Òscar Grau, are due to discuss the next step with Josep Maria Bartomeu, the club’s president, upon their return from Qatar, where they held meetings with Xavi over two days. The 39-year-old, who is currently in charge of the Doha club al-Sadd, expressed a desire to become coach at the Camp Nou but with Barcelona pressing for a swift response he decided the time was not right. Ernesto Valverde remains in charge.
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Barcelona are now considering their options, which include handing the job on a part-time basis to the B-team coach, Francisco Javier García Pimienta, with a view to Xavi taking over in the summer.
Until Barcelona were beaten 3-2 by Atlético Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup in Saudi Arabia on Thursday night, their original idea had been to see out the season with Valverde, with the former centre-back and current Netherlands head coach, Ronald Koeman, the principal candidate to replace him after Euro 2020, but that position has shifted now.
Valverde had not been informed of the meetings and, unless a resolution is reached, he will turn up to take training on Monday. Last February he signed a new contract that runs to the end of this season with an option for another. No one anticipated that clause would be activated, but Valverde has no intention of resigning. Barça are through to the next round of the Champions League, having won their group, and are top of La Liga. They have also won the title in each of the last two seasons.
Abidal and Grau had travelled to Qatar following Barcelona’s defeat on Thursday. From 2-1 up with eight minutes remaining, they were defeated 3-2. Although doubts over Valverde had been profound, Barcelona stuck with him in the summer, but that defeat – throughout which Saudi Arabian Barcelona fans booed him – brought reservations back to the surface. With Xavi saying no, and negotiations public, it would be difficult to take a step back now: Valverde’s position has been weakened dramatically.
Grau and Abidal had been due in Qatar to check on the progress of the injured Ousmane Dembélé but they also met Xavi. That too was planned but, to his surprise, they offered him the manager’s job immediately. He told reporters it was no secret that his “dream” was to manage Barcelona, but hinted he had doubts over the timing. Xavi, who won eight La Liga titles and four Champions League during his 17-year career at Barcelona, also insisted on his “respect” for al-Sadd and Valverde. On Sunday, he finally turned the job down.
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The day that was expected to bring news of the end of Valverde’s career at Barça may instead have brought news of the end of Luis Suárez’s career there after the club announced he will be out for an estimated four months after he underwent surgery on the meniscus on his right knee.
Suárez is 34 next month and Barcelona, who were already looking for a long-term replacement in the summer, are now considering going into the winter transfer market. Only four players have ever scored more goals for the club and before Thursday night’s match, Suárez had scored or assisted each of Barcelona’s last 10 goals.