Barcelona FC superstar Xavi Hernandez is expected to announce tomorrow that he will join Qatar’s Al Sadd football team at the end of this season, individuals close to the midfielder have said.
However, a spokesperson for Al Sadd refused to confirm or deny the development to Doha News, saying it would only be announced by the club “once the ink dries.”
Rumors that the 35-year-old midfielder was moving to Qatar have been swirling for months.
Xavi visited Doha with family in March and met with managers of Al Sadd, which announced on social media that he had signed with the club. However, the Qatar club later issued a statement saying the deal had not yet been finalized.
The statement added that Xavi was visiting the country with his family to get to know the club and the country more before he made his decision regarding the team, according to QNA.
This week, Xavi’s father, Joaquin Hernandez, confirmed that he would be joining the team. According to AFP, he also said the opportunity would allow his son to train as a future coach:
“He is lucky to have received a really impressive offer that allows him to continue playing football, train as a future coach and also rest a little.”
Xavi is expected to sign a three-year deal with Al Sadd. Though his contract with Barcelona is not supposed to end until next year, the club has already announced it won’t stand in his way.
“Xavi has earned the right to decide his future,” Barcelona FC President Josep Maria Bartomeu said in March.
Al Sadd is one of the top local football teams in Qatar. It won the Asian Champions League in 1989 and 2011, and finished third in the 2011 FIFA Club World Cup after losing to Barcelona in the semi-finals.
Xavi chose Qatar’s club over an offer from New York City’s MLS, accoding to the Qatar Tribune.
Xavi is the latest football star who has been wooed to Qatar, which previously relied heavily on athletes from outside the country to bolster its ranks.
Others include Real Madrid legend Raul Gonzalez, who played for Al Sadd for two years before joining the US Cosmos in 2014. Another Real Madrid star, Fernando
Herierra Hierro, joined Qatar’s Al Rayyan Club for a season in 2003.
Barcelona’s Pep Guardiola joined Al Ahli for two seasons starting in 2003, while Argentinian Gabriel Batistuta finished his career with Qatar’s Al Arab before retiring in 2005.
There are signs, however, that the country’s international recruitment efforts are tapering off.
Last year, the Qatar Football Association (QFA) announced that it would be reducing the number of foreign players in the coming seasons.
The organization said it wants to shift its focus to developing young local players, training more Qatari referees and coaches and reaching out to the community to bring in fans.
More recently, FIFA President Sepp Blatter blasted Qatar’s reliance on foreign handball players in this year’s world championships as an “absurdity.”
Blatter went on to warn the Gulf state that its athletic selection process would be closely watched ahead of the 2022 World Cup to ensure it complies with FIFA’s rules, which are stricter about nationalized athletes than the international handball league’s.
Qatar’s newest addition made his professional debut in August 1998 against RCD Mallorca. He has since played in more than 760 matches and scored 82 goals.
The Spanish player has also represented his country 133 times, a record for an outfield player.
The athlete has won over 25 trophies, more than any other Spanish football player in history.
He was also instrumental in Spain’s 2010 World Cup victory, as well as the country’s successes in the 2000 Olympics as well as the 2008 and 2012 Euro Cups.