Barcelona manager and legend Xavi granted his blessing to Qatar ahead of the tournament, believing it will be a “historic World Cup.”
The former Spain international has deep roots within the peninsula as he joined Al-Sadd as a player in 2015 after 17 trophy-laden years with Spanish giants Barcelona.
“I felt at home in Qatar. I was there for six years. I know a lot of people, and I think it will be a historic World Cup for the country and for football,” the 42-year-old retired superstar commented.
Amidst a break in the international football schedule, Xavi hopes to witness matches of the Spanish team.
“I’ll try to go a few days to see it live, too, to a Spain game and one of Qatar,” Xavi added.
Winning seven titles with Al-Sadd as a coach, Xavi took off from the Qatar pitches to join Barcelona in 2021 for a three-year contract.
Barca draws in Europa League play-off
Meanwhile in Europe, two of the world’s top teams will battle it out for a place in the region’s second-tier club competition, with Barcelona set to face Ten Hag’s Manchester United.
The first legs are on 16 February, after the World Cup season, with the second legs kicking off on 23 February.
With 16 teams involved: the eight runners-up from the Europa League group stage and the eight third-placed teams from the UEFA Champions League group stage, football fans are exhilarated to catch the toss-up.
Finishing third behind Bayern Munich and Inter Milan in their Champions League group, Xavi’s Barca will have a demanding schedule after Ten Hag revised United’s rough starting record.
Speaking on the draw in a press conference, Xavi admitted next year’s Europa League play-off round would be concerning.
“It is the most difficult opponent once again. But we will look forward to it. They are a historic side, they have grown a lot with the arrival of Ten Hag, they have great players,” Xavi said.
“It’s the worst draw we could have got. Once again. No luck.”
UEFA Europa League play-off round draw
Barcelona v Manchester United
Juventus v Nantes
Sporting Lisbon v Midtjylland
Shakhtar Donetsk v Rennes
Ajax v Union Berlin
Bayer Leverkusen v Monaco
Sevilla v PSV Eindhoven
FC Salzburg v Roma