Xavi bares soul
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.