Xavi bares soul

Lesotho Times - - Sport -

BARCELONA — It was the last ser­vice to his club of 17 years when Xavi Her­nan­dez lifted the UEFA Cham­pi­ons League tro­phy in Ber­lin on 6 June, the 25th piece of sil­ver­ware in an in­com­pa­ra­ble club ca­reer at Barcelona. Just a few days later, on the pitch of Al Sadd Club in Qatar, the mid­fielder many con­sider Spain’s great­est ever pulled on the shirt of just the sec­ond club of his ca­reer.

Af­ter sign­ing nu­mer­ous shirts for the wideeyed young­sters who came to greet him, the 2010 FIFA World Cup-win­ner took time to sit down with www.sc.qa for an in-depth chat about his tre­ble-win­ning ex­ploits with Barcelona and how they com­pared to the Cata­lan side’s last such feat in 2009, his new club in Qatar, and how he wants to help the de­vel­op­ment of Qatari foot­ball.

Ac­cord­ing to your bi­og­ra­pher this was the first of­fi­cial pre­sen­ta­tion of your life. How did it feel to hold up a new shirt?

It was some­thing new for me be­cause I’ve never had to do one be­fore. I had one on a much smaller scale when I was 11 years old when I came to Barcelona, but never some­thing like this. The way I was re­ceived in Qatar has been mar­vel­lous. I’m very grate­ful to Al Sadd, to the chil­dren who wel­comed me here to­day, and the fa­natic foot­ball fans in this coun­try who be­haved so well to­wards me.

Was this the per­fect time for you to leave the club where you have spent your en­tire ca­reer?

Last year my mother and my friends in­sisted that I should stay one more year, and look at the dif­fer­ence it’s made. I’m happy that I was able to wit­ness all that I did this year, with the tre­ble and ev­ery­thing around it. It’s been a real dream farewell.

Barcelona be­came the first club to re­peat a tre­ble, and you were a cen­tral part of both of these teams. Which was the more sat­is­fy­ing – 2009 or 2015?

Both, of course, both. This one was a mix­ture of ex­cite­ment, hap­pi­ness and nos­tal­gia; be­cause I al­ready knew that it would be the last game that I would play for Barcelona. I wanted to make sure to say farewell in the best pos­si­ble way, and this was a script which could not have been writ­ten bet­ter. Both trebles have been in­cred­i­ble; we thought that it wouldn’t be pos­si­ble to re­peat the tre­ble but by cir­cum­stances of foot­ball and with this out­stand­ing team that we have we were able to do it again. So I’m proud to have been part of both.

What was it that in­formed your de­ci­sion to come and play in Qatar?

It’s an ideal project for me. The three dif­fer­ent com­po­nents came to­gether per­fectly for my fam­ily and me. For one there is the pos­si­bil­ity here at Al Sadd to con­tinue win­ning tro­phies, to try and do our best to win the league and the cup and com­pete well in the Asian Cham­pi­ons League. Then there is the fan­tas­tic project at As­pire where my pro­fes­sional for­ma­tion will con­tinue, and fi­nally to be an am­bas­sador for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar is some­thing that is very ex­cit­ing. The team will keep get­ting more com­pet­i­tive and I am very proud to be here. In the fu­ture I’d like to do my coach­ing li­cense as well as be­come a sport­ing di­rec­tor.

Have you al­ready had the chance to see much of the city?

It’s sur­prised me pos­i­tively. There are things to do all the time and the peo­ple have wel­comed me with a lot of pas­sion. I can only talk pos­i­tively of this coun­try, which has placed a big fo­cus on sports. For me it is a great place to be and to de­velop fur­ther in the long term with the sights set on the World Cup in 2022.

Do you feel like you can help to de­velop the foot­ball cul­ture in Qatar even fur­ther ahead of that tour­na­ment?

I want to bring all of my ex­pe­ri­ence from Barcelona to Qatar, and I see that there are al­ready teams here who like to play our style of foot­ball. I know that Al Sadd and the coach here play the style which we have played with Barcelona and with the Span­ish na­tional team over the past decade, so I come with the knowl­edge that I’ll be able to con­trib­ute. I have seen games of Al Sadd and they at­tempt to keep the ball, and play in a style sim­i­lar to what I’m used to.

Do you think Qatar’s na­tional team will also be look­ing to play the pos­ses­sion­style which Spain and Barcelona have pi­o­neered over the past decade?

I think so, that’s the idea of Qatari foot­ball. They are look­ing to im­merse them­selves in the cul­ture of Barcelona and Spain, which has had so many suc­cesses on the world stage in re­cent years. They want to com­pete well and to reach the World Cup in 2022 with the most com­pet­i­tive team pos­si­ble.

What do you see as the main ad­van­tages of the tour­na­ment?

Pre­vi­ously we had to travel to matches the day be­fore. Here the fact that you don’t have to travel long dis­tances is an ad­van­tage. I also think that play­ing in Novem­ber and De­cem­ber will al­low play­ers to reach the tour­na­ment in the best pos­si­ble con­di­tions. There are also sta­di­ums al­ready em­ploy­ing air-con­di­tion­ing, so I think the con­di­tions are here to make this World Cup a great suc­cess. It will be a ben­e­fit for the play­ers.

You lifted the 2010 World Cup in the first tour­na­ment on the African con­ti­nent. What do you think you can do to in­spire the young­sters of the re­gion ahead of the first edi­tion in the Mid­dle East?

I would like to bring all my ex­pe­ri­ence in Barcelona, all of the val­ues which I learned in La Masía: sac­ri­fice, hard work, hu­mil­ity, all of what I learnt I want to trans­mit here. I also want to im­merse my­self in this won­der­ful cul­ture and with all the hu­mil­ity in the world I want to con­trib­ute my part from what I have learned in Barcelona.— Fifa.com MI­LAN — Sam­p­do­ria pres­i­dent Mas­simo Fer­rero ex­pects Cameroon striker Sa­muel Eto’o (pic­tured) to leave the Serie A club this sum­mer.

Eto’o (34) joined Sam­p­do­ria from Ev­er­ton in Jan­uary and is un­der con­tract with the Genoa out­fit un­til June 2018.

How­ever, the former In­ter Mi­lan player has failed to im­press in his sec­ond spell in Serie A, scor­ing just two goals in 18 league ap­pear­ances for Samp, and has been linked with a move to the United States to play in Ma­jor League Soc­cer.

When asked about Eto’o’s fu­ture, Fer­rero said to Sky Italia: “I think this lit­tle bird is des­tined to fly to­wards other shores.

“As far as I’m con­cerned, he could stay for life as I wanted him and chose him to come here.

“He is a great cham­pion but if he wants to leave, then he can fol­low his heart... and his wal­let.”

A four-time African Foot­baller of the Year, Eto’o en­joyed suc­cess in Italy ear­lier in his ca­reer.he moved to In­ter from Barcelona in a £28mil­lion trans­fer deal in July 2009 and helped the Ner­az­zurri win a his­toric tre­ble — Serie A, Coppa Italia and Cham­pi­ons League — in his first sea­son at the club.

Mean­while, Ital­ian striker Ste­fano Okaka is also ex­pected to depart Samp this sum­mer.

The 25-year-old Okaka, who joined the club from Parma in Jan­uary 2014 and scored four goals in 32 league ap­pear­ances this sea­son, is tied to the Genoa out­fit for another year but has re­jected a new deal, ac­cord­ing to Fer­rero.

He said: “Okaka will leave be­cause he turned down a con­tract ex­ten­sion with us.”

Samp fin­ished sev­enth in Serie A and will be coached by Wal­ter Zenga next sea­son.

Zenga re­placed Sin­isa Mi­ha­jlovic, who left the club at the end of the cam­paign and is ex­pected to join AC Mi­lan. — Sport­inglife LIVER­POOL — Manch­ester City are grow­ing in­creas­ingly con­fi­dent aboout land­ing Ra­heem Ster­ling (pic­tured) for less than Liver­pool’s £50mil­lion val­u­a­tion.

Sports­mail un­der­stands City will not pay more than £40m for the Eng­land star.

Liver­pool’s hopes of spark­ing a bid­ding war for the for­ward in an at­tempt to max­imise the trans­fer fee they’ll re­ceive looks un­likely to ma­te­ri­alise. Arse­nal and Chelsea are both in­ter­ested, but have other pri­or­i­ties in the trans­fer mar­ket, while Real Madrid and Bay­ern Mu­nich are un­likely to pay be­yond the £30m City, who will make an im­proved bid this week, have al­ready of­fered.

Ster­ling has just two years left on his cur­rent deal and Liver­pool know his value will be­gin to fall rapidly over the next 12 months as a re­sult, a fac­tor Eti­had chiefs are also more than aware of.

Mean­while, Ju­ven­tus de­fender Pa­trice Evra has urged his former Manch­ester United team-mate Paul Pogba to stay in Turin rather than move to City. Pogba has been linked with a £60m move to the Eti­had Sta­dium but Evra said: ‘I have told him he needs to make the best de­ci­sion for him.

‘If he wants to leave for one of Europe’s big clubs then that is fine but I think it would be a good idea if he stays where he is. I don’t think Ju­ven­tus will let him leave.’ — Daily Mail

Xavi (left) and club of­fi­cials poses with his new Al-sadd club shirt af­ter sign­ing a two-year con­tract on Thurs­day.

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