BARCELONA: Barcelona legend Xavi Hernandez confirmed on Thursday that he will end his 17-year playing career with the Catalans at the end of the season to join Qatari side Al Sadd.
“I would like to announce my departure from Barcelona at the end of the season,” he told a press conference adding that at some point he intends to return to the club.
“This season I am playing fewer minutes, I continue to feel useful and important, but it is the moment for a change.”
As well as continuing his playing career with Al Sadd, Xavi will work with his two brothers and sister at the Aspire Academy with the intention of taking his first steps towards becoming a coach.
“We have an exciting project in Qatar. There I will continue to play football in Al Sadd, I have signed a contract for two years with the option for one more.
“I also have an exciting project at the Aspire Academy. I can learn how to be a future coach and sporting director.
“My principal objective is to return here, be it as a coach or sporting director.”
The 35-year-old is Barca’s most decorated player of all-time and could yet finish with two more titles with the Copa del Rey and Champions League finals against Athletic Bilbao and Juventus respectively to come.
A homage to the midfielder is expected when Barcelona celebrate winning the La Liga title, Xavi’s eighth league winners medal, at home to Deportivo la Coruna on Saturday.
As well as being one of the key figures in the most successful era in Barcelona’s history, Xavi was also an integral part of the Spain side that won three consecutive major tournaments at the European Championships in 2008 and 2012 and the country’s first World Cup in 2010.
In March he travelled to Qatar to meet Al Sadd club officials and will follow in the footsteps of Real Madrid legend and former international teammate Raul who played 44 games for Al Sadd, one of Qatar’s top clubs, between 2012 and 2014, before joining the New York Cosmos in October 2014.
On top of his success, Xavi will be remembered as the driving force behind Barcelona and Spain’s possession-based ‘tiki-taka’ style of football which led both sides to become the dominant force in European football at club and international level.
His departure follows that of other club heavyweights in recent years such as defender Carles Puyol and goalkeeper Victor Valdes as Barca’s style has evolved from an era marked by home grown players to one now defined by a superstar front three of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez.
Xavi almost left the club the end of last season after a first trophyless campaign in six years and a disastrous World Cup as Spain’s defence ended after just two games, but was reportedly convinced by new coach and former teammate Luis Enrique to stay on.
However, even under Enrique’s orders his influence has waned with the majority of his 41 appearances coming off the bench, particularly in the biggest matches of the season.