Barcelona great Xavi confirms retirement plans

Former Barcelona and Spain great Xavi has confirmed he will finish his playing career with Al Sadd at the end of this season.

Xavi signed a two-year contract extension with Al Sadd 12 months ago.    -  REUTERS

Spain and Barcelona midfield great Xavi Hernandez has confirmed his intention to finish playing at the end of this season and move into coaching. 

The 39-year-old has represented Al Sadd in the Qatar Stars League since leaving Barca at the end of its treble-winning 2014-15 campaign. 

Xavi initially said he would retire at the end of last season but postponed these plans and signed a two-year contract extension 12 months ago.

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However, he again spoke of a desire to bring down the curtain on his celebrated playing days last November and now hopes to sign off by helping Al Sadd to Emir Cup glory. 

"Over the coming four weeks, I will be lacing my boots for the last games of an unforgettable career, which has spanned over 21 years and taken me to every corner of the world," Xavi said. 

"It has been a fantastic end to my playing career here in Qatar. Winning the Qatar Stars League this month was the title that was missing. Since I arrived here we have won everything and only the league was missing, so I'm very happy. 

"As a sportsperson, you never get tired of winning. Once you have won a title you always want to win more."

Xavi's overall title haul is plentiful and includes eight La Liga triumphs and four Champions Leagues, while he played a pivotal role in Spain's 2010 World Cup win – a moment of glory that came in between its successes at Euro 2008 and Euro 2012. 

If more trophies are to follow in his coaching career, they will do so with Xavi following a familiar model.

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"You will see that my coaching philosophy reflects the style that we were able to develop over many years through the influence of Johan Cruyff, La Masia and the Barcelona way of playing football," he said. 

"I love to see teams taking the initiative on the pitch, playing attacking football and going back to the essence of what we all love about this game since our childhood days; having possession of the football." 

Xavi added: "I have been privileged to achieve everything that I was able to do over the past two decades."

Barcelona pays tribute

Barcelona issued a statement on its website playing tribute to their former captain, who won a total of 25 trophies with the La Liga giant while playing under the likes of Louis van Gaal, Frank Rijkaard, Pep Guardiola and Luis Enrique.

"Xavi is a living example of FC Barcelona's emblematic style of play," it read, under a heading describing Xavi as Barca's "torchbearer".

"He arrived at the club in the 1991-92 season to play for Under-12 team and La Masia became the place where he learned the fundamentals of the midfield from the man who would become his friend and mentor, Pep Guardiola, who Xavi would later succeed as the backbone of the Barca midfield for almost two decades."

Here is the career of one of the classiest players to grace the Camp Nou pitch, in numbers.

767 - Xavi holds the Barcelona appearance record, with only current captain Lionel Messi (682) and Andres Iniesta (674) within 100 matches of his 767 games for the club.

9 - Only nine players in LaLiga history have played more than 500 times in the competition. Xavi's 505 LaLiga games is some way short of Andoni Zubizarreta's record of 622, however.

13 - Xavi tasted defeat to Barca's Clasico rivals Real Madrid on 13 occasions, playing in the fixture an incredible 42 times. He scored five goals against Los Blancos.

25 - His record in the Catalan derby against Espanyol was brilliant, though. Xavi – who scored six goals in the fixture – featured in it 36 times and was victorious in 25.

133 - World Cup winner Xavi played 133 times for Spain, making him one of 13 men to have reached a century of caps for the country. Only his former international team-mates Sergio Ramos (162) and Iker Casillas (167) have made more appearances for Spain than him.

1,000 - While not a prolific midfielder, Xavi recorded the 1,000th goal in the history of the Spanish national team. It came when they beat Northern Ireland 3-2 in a European Championship qualifier in September 2006.

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