Xavi only 'focused on Al Sadd' amid speculation of return to Barcelona

Former midfielder emerges as frontrunner to fill managerial vacancy at Camp Nou

Xavi Hernandez has been manager at Al Sadd since 2019 and has emerged as the favourite to fill the vacancy at Barcelona. AFP
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Xavi Hernandez has said he is only "focused on my work with Al Sadd" as speculation continues to link the Qatari club's manager with a return to Barcelona.

Xavi, 41, is one of Barcelona's greatest ever players, playing a key role in the most successful period of the club's history. The former midfielder won 17 major trophies over a 17-year career with Barca having come through the club's famed La Masia academy.

Al Sadd is the Spaniard's first managerial position - he has been in charge at the Doha club since 2019 - but despite his relative lack of experience, he has emerged as the frontrunner to take the reins at Barca following the sacking of Ronald Koeman this week.

However, Xavi refused to be drawn into the speculation on Thursday, telling a press conference ahead Saturday's match with Al Ahli: "I am currently focused on my work with Al Sadd, and I cannot talk about anything else."

Barcelona fired Koeman after losing 1-0 at Rayo Vallecano on Wednesday to stay ninth in La Liga, six points behind the leaders. The Dutchman had been in charge for 14 months in what was a tumultuous time for the club.

With Barcelona struggling under crippling debt, Koeman saw several first-team players depart the club during his tenure, most notably captain and star man Lionel Messi, who joined Paris Saint-Germain after Barca were unable to offer the Argentine a new contract.

Despite the enormous challenge that awaits Koeman's successor, there is huge excitement about Xavi's potential as a coach and he has long been viewed as a future Barcelona manager.

Xavi is from the suburbs of Barcelona, came through the famed youth system and played more than 750 games for the club before leaving for Qatar in 2019.

After playing four seasons for Al Sadd, he took over as manager in 2019 and led them to a league title last season. They won the Amir Cup last week, beating Al Rayyan on penalties in the final.

Al Sadd have won all seven of their league games this season to lead the table.

Updated: October 29, 2021, 4:53 AM