Soccer-Barcelona sack Xavi after season of turmoil


FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - LaLiga - FC Barcelona Training - Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper, Barcelona, Spain - November 3, 2023 Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez during training REUTERS/Albert Gea

MADRID (Reuters) -Barcelona sacked manager Xavi Hernandez on Friday, four weeks after confirming their former midfielder would honour the last year of his contract and lead them through next season.

The decision ended months of arguments between Barca and Xavi who made 767 appearances for the club over 17 seasons and helped them win 25 major trophies.

"Today Friday, FC Barcelona President Joan Laporta has informed Xavi Hernandez that he will not be continuing as first team coach in the 2024-25 season," Barcelona said in a statement.

"Barcelona wish to thank Xavi for his work as coach, as well as for his inimitable career as a player and as team captain, and wishes him every future success in the world."

Barcelona will finish second in LaLiga, at least nine points behind champions Real Madrid, and Xavi had announced in January that he would resign at the end of this season.

After discussions in April at Laporta's home, however, Xavi reversed his decision and agreed to stay on with a series of unspecified conditions set by the club.

Off the back of winning LaLiga last year in Xavi's first full season in charge, he was not able to survive a stuttering season as bitter rivals Real Madrid closed in on a possible LaLiga-Champions League double.

Barca were thrashed by Real in the Spanish Super Cup final in January, knocked out in the Copa del Rey quarter-finals by Athletic Bilbao and eliminated from the Champions League by Paris St Germain at the last-eight stage. Meanwhile, Real will face Borussia Dortmund in next week's final at Wembley.

Xavi's final match as manager will be Barca's trip to Sevilla on Sunday, the last LaLiga game of the season.

The 44-year-old Xavi arrived at Barcelona on a three-year deal following the departure of Dutchman Ronald Koeman at the end of 2021.

Xavi is a product of Barcelona's famous La Masia youth academy which he joined at age 11.

As a player, he won 31 trophies for Barcelona and Spain, including the 2010 World Cup, two European Championships, eight LaLiga and four Champions League titles.

He coached Barca in 141 games, with 89 wins, 23 draws and 29 losses, leading them last season to their 27th league title and first in four years.

"It is never easy to leave the club of your life, but I am very proud after two and a half years at the head of a dressing room that has been like a second family," Xavi said in an open letter published on social media.

"From Sunday I will be another fan in the stands... Because before being a player or a coach I am a Barcelona fan and I only want the best for the club in my life, which will always have me at its disposal.

"This season things have not gone our way, but we have let it go and helped to grow a new generation of young footballers from La Masia who inspire all Barcelona fans... I wish the best for the club that I hold dear to my heart."

Barca's on-field struggles reflect the turmoil off the pitch at the club, including deepening financial problems and a refereeing scandal that could drag on for years.

Spanish prosecutors in March 2023 filed a complaint over alleged payments by Barca from 2001 to 2018 totalling more than 7.3 million euros ($7.92 million) to firms owned by former refereeing official Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira.

A Barcelona court has agreed to take on the case.

Barca also face huge financial challenges related to their massive wage bill and as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and a 1.6 billion-euro Camp Nou stadium renovation project.

(Reporting by Fernando Kallas. Additional reporting by Emma Pinedo, editing by Inti Landauro and Ed Osmond and Christian Radnedge)

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