Xavi announces Barcelona exit and Al Sadd deal

Midfielder follows in the footsteps of former Spain team mate Raul

Barcelona captain Xavi Hernandez has announced he will join Qatari side Al-Sadd this summer, ending his 24-year run with the Catalan giants.

The Spanish midfielder is the longest serving and most decorated Barca player having joined the club at the age of 11.

A World Cup winner with Spain, the 35-year-old has made over 500 appearances for the Blaugrana, clinching 23 trophies, including three Champions League and eight Primera Division titles.

“I would like to announce and confirm my departure from Barca at the end of the season,” Xavi said at a press conference on Thursday. “It’s a definite decision but a difficult one.


“I’ve been at the club for almost 25 years but this is the time for me to leave.

“I have a thrilling project in Qatar, I will play for Al-Sadd the next two seasons.

“I also have an enthusiastic project in the Aspire academy (a sporting academy based in Qatar).

“I will be able to work towards becoming a coach or a sporting director in the future.

“My hope and aim is for one day to return to work for Barca.”

Xavi was under contract with Barca for another season but had already pondered leaving the club.

“I did well to remain for another season even though I’ve had less playing time,” he said. “Barca recently offered me a contract extension until June 2018 but the decision had been taken.

“I could not have asked for a better career and I want to thank the Barca fans, who have treated me very well.

“I’m very happy with how things have gone and I leave having given everything.”

Xavi, a product of the youth academy, broke into the first team in 1998 and was alongside team-mate Andres Iniesta crucial in establishing Barca’s possession-based playing style which proved so successful with Spain, too.

Xavi retired from the national team last summer after earning 133 caps and winning the 2010 World Cup and the 2008 and 2012 European Championships.

“I would like to be remembered as someone who always gave everything to Barca and the national team,” he said. “I always tried to play for the team.

“I have a passion for football and I believe I have made the most of my abilities as a footballer.

“Barca will continue to win and play well without me.

“History is proof of that.”

Xavi shed some tears after last weekend’s 1-0 triumph at Atletico Madrid that gave Barca their 27th league crown.

Barca host Deportivo La Coruna in their last domestic league game on Saturday.

Breaking with tradition and following a request from Barcelona, Xavi will lift the Primera Division trophy on Saturday.

The trophy is normally presented at the start of the following season but the club asked the Spanish Football League (LFP) to make a change as a tribute to Xavi.

Luis Enrique's side then take on Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey final on May 30 at the Nou Camp before their Champions League showdown with Juventus in Berlin on June 6.

"It's a special end to my career at Barca," Xavi said. "Having won La Liga, I'm really looking forward to lifting the Copa del Rey.

“We have the opportunity to make history and I just want to win our last two trophies.”