Barcelona president sticks with Hernandez in show of support for coach despite his decision to leave
MADRID (AP) — Barcelona is sticking with Xavi Hernández amid a show of support for the coach despite his decision to leave at the end of the season.
Barcelona president Joan Laporta said Sunday he will not make a coaching change and expects Xavi to remain fully committed despite not returning next season.
The president met with the coach and the squad a day after Xavi said he would leave. The coach's announcement came following the team’s 5-3 loss at home to Villarreal in the Spanish league on Saturday.
“Xavi told me that at the end of the season he would leave, but that he wanted to finish the season, and it’s a formula that I accept because he is the one who proposed it to me, and he is a Barcelona legend,” Laporta said. “He is an honest person, acts with total dignity and loves Barça. I accept it because I know that he will be fully committed until the end of the season.”
The loss to Villarreal has left Barcelona 11 points behind Spanish league leader Girona and 10 points from second-place Real Madrid. The Catalan club had already been eliminated by Athletic Bilbao in the quarterfinals of the Copa del Rey and lost 4-1 to Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup final.
“The league will be tough to win, but it’s not impossible,” Laporta said. “We have to compete until the end and see what happens. We’ll need the support of our fans so we can try to win the Champions League. We’ll go step by step. With everyone’s commitment, I believe that we can still reach some of the goals that we had set for the season.”
Barcelona faces Napoli in the round of 16 of the Champions League, a competition in which it hadn’t advanced past the group stage the last two seasons, and not since Lionel Messi was still with the club.
Laporta did not say anything about searching for a replacement for Xavi. The club has been struggling financially and is not in a good position to sign new players.
Laporta called for “unity” and thanked the club’s fans for their support despite the “complicated season” that included the move to the Montjuic stadium while the Camp Nou undergoes extensive remodeling.
Barcelona said Xavi met with his players before training on Sunday to explain his decision to leave.
The coach said Saturday that “as a Barcelona fan” he couldn’t allow “this situation to continue” and that the team needed “a change of course and of dynamics.”
He said the decision to leave at the end of the season had been made before the loss to Villarreal, though the defeat helped accelerate the announcement. He hoped his decision would decrease the stress and tension that was surrounding the team and himself.
“The feeling of being the coach of Barcelona is cruel, it is unpleasant, you feel like you don’t get the respect you deserve,” Xavi said. “It wears you down, affects your mental health, your emotions, up to the point that you say you can’t go on. My loved ones know that.”
The former star midfielder returned to Barcelona as coach in November 2021 with his only experience of the position coming during a stint in Qatar. His contract was due to finish at the end of next season.
Barcelona’s next league match is against midtable Osasuna at home on Wednesday before an away game at Alaves on Saturday.
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