Laporta says Barcelona has other options besides Xavi

National Sports

BARCELONA, Spain (AP)Barcelona is considering other possible coaches besides former player Xavi Hernandez to take over for the fired Ronald Koeman, the club’s president said Friday.

Joan Laporta faced a barrage of questions about the widespread speculation linking Xavi to the position. Each time, he lauded the former midfielder while not revealing details of the job hunt.

”The name of Xavi is all over the news but Barca has other options,” Laporta said, without naming names.

One reason that Laporta is looking for other candidates might be because Xavi’s current employer, Qatari club Al-Sadd, appears intent on making him see out his contract that ends in 2023.

”In response to what’s circulating recently, the Al-Sadd management reaffirms that Xavi has a two-year contract with the club and is fully focused on the team’s upcoming matches, to maintain our lead at the top of the league and to defend the title,” it said in a statement posted on social media.

The 41-year-old Xavi joined Al-Sadd after leaving Barcelona in 2015 following 25 titles in 17 seasons. He played for Al-Sadd until becoming the team’s coach in 2019.

Laporta started his second stint as Barcelona president midway through last season after his predecessor stepped down amid the club’s financial crisis and the team’s poor results.

Laporta said he often speaks with Xavi, who played for Barcelona during Laporta’s first stint as president, ”as friends” who like to chat about the team.

”I have never changed what I say about Xavi. One day he will become the coach of Barcelona, and I would even like for that to be while I am in charge. What I don’t know is when,” Laporta said. ”It is true that the scouting reports we have on him are very good. All the inputs and news we have on Xavi are good, even though he has not been coaching a long time.”

Koeman was let go on Wednesday following a 1-0 loss at Rayo Vallecano that left Barcelona in ninth place in the Spanish league. That followed painful losses to Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Benfica and Bayern Munich this season.

Barcelona promoted reserve team coach Sergi Barjuan the next day to act as caretaker coach. Laporta said Barjuan will be in charge for Saturday’s home game against Alaves and possibly next week’s Champions League match at Dynamo Kyiv.

Laporta thanked Koeman, a former Barcelona defender, for taking over the team at the start of last season when it was already having difficulties competing with Europe’s elite.

”Koeman is a man of this club who will always remain in its collective memory,” Laporta said. ”He also won a Copa del Rey title as our coach, but he didn’t continue because the results were not going his way. The situation was unsustainable.”

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