More From ForbesBiden Meets Pope Francis At Start Of European Diplomatic TourPresident Joe Biden met with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Friday, kicking off a diplomatic tour across Europe including appearances at the G20 summit in Rome and high-stakes COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland.
It all seemed to be a done deal.
Xavi Hernandez had allegedly accepted his boyhood club’s offer, so all there was left for FC Barcelona to do in order to appoint him as their new head coach was head to Doha and negotiate his swift exit with current employers.
On Wednesday evening in Doha, Al-Sadd threw a spanner in the works with a blunt statement.
“We welcome the visit of the administrative delegation from Barcelona, and we appreciate and respect this,” it began.
“[But] the club’s position is clear from the beginning – we are committed to keeping our coach Xavi with us and we cannot have him leave at this sensitive time of the season.”
A primary motive for this is said to have been president Joan Laporta’s refusal to travel with Rafa Yuste and Mateu Alemany, which hasn’t been received well by Al-Sadd’s owner Mohammed bin Khalifa al Thani.
According to Mundo Deportivo’s Fernando Polo, the sheikh’s request for Laporta to travel to Doha is a form of payback for when the president
openly criticized the country on numerous occasions, beginning when the successor of his
first term, Sandro Rosell, changed the Blaugrana’s main sponsor from Unicef to the Qatar Foundation.
Following a thrilling 3-3 draw with Al-Duhail which could be his last game in charge, Xavi wasn’t able to offer much.
“I can’t say a lot more but I’m a positive person. They have to agree. That’s where it is.
The two clubs know my position and I hope it’s sorted out soon,” he said to Catalan reporters.
“I’m really looking forward to returning home. I hope it happens. It would be spectacular to coach Barcelona.
We have to end the ‘isms’ and all move as one. Now I’ll dine with the directors of Al-Sadd and Barca.”
Bizarrely, Xavi needs to go cap in hand to the sheik’s palace himself to hash out his exit, with As saying his entourage are confident of a resolution in the next 48 hours, but there are further sticking points.
The fee for his capture has reportedly risen to a €5mn ($5.8 million) sum Barca, in over $1bn’s worth of debts, might struggle with while also needing to pay off fired former manager Ronald Koeman more than double that amount.
Yet the Qataris are also put out that Barca have arranged a Maradona Cup friendly with Boca Juniors in Saudi Arabia and “do not like” the relationship they have with the rival kingdom, say SPORT.
So near yet so far from his dream job, for the club’s second all-time appearances leader and four-time Champions League winner.