FC Barcelona legend Xavi has written an open letter discussing his future, in which he gives no clear indication but does seem to hint at a possible return to Catalonia.
Xavi manages Al-Sadd and has recently won silverware with the Qatari club. The uncertainty in Catalonia over the manager at various points this year has seemingly opened a path for the former captain to return, but up until now it has not materialized.
Reflecting on Qatar’s role as 2022 FIFA World Cup host, Xavi wrote: “While later it will be time to take the next step in my career, for now, I am focused on enjoying my time here and making the most of the opportunity to play a small role in Qatar’s exciting journey leading up to 2022.”
While that does suggest Xavi is thinking about his next career move, perhaps it may take a while before it comes to fruition. Will it only occur after the World Cup?
Here’s the full letter as printed in MARCA:
There are less than two years left until the World Cup will be held in the Middle East and the Arab world for the first time, and the anticipation is really starting to grow here in Qatar. The country has promised to offer an unbeatable spectacle for fans. Witnessing the pace of the preparations since I moved here in 2015, on everything from stadiums and accommodation to roads and rail infrastructure, I have every confidence that it will be an incredible World Cup for both players and fans.
I moved to Qatar to join Al Sadd and extend my playing career. Moving from Barcelona, my hometown, and a club that I love so much, to start over in a whole new part of the world was a good decision for both me and my family.
At that time my passion for playing was as strong as always, but deep down I knew that I could no longer contribute as much as I would have liked for a club like Barcelona, where you have to win every week. When I discovered the World Cup project in Qatar when talking to friends like Raul, who had already played here, I was really impressed by what the country wanted to achieve on and off the pitch by hosting the World Cup.
It was a great opportunity for me to continue playing football and, at the same time, participate in a bigger project, with the aim of achieving great things off the pitch through the programs that have been brought in to achieve positive social change beyond 2022.
When you walk around Doha and meet its people, their passion for football is clear. I really didn’t know what I was going to find when I first moved here, as it was a completely new experience for me, leaving Barcelona after 25 years to go to a part of the world with a different culture and traditions. But I must admit that I like pretty much everything about living in Qatar. The weather is incredible, it’s sunny almost every day, and it’s a very relaxing place to work as the people are very respectful and friendly. It’s also a very safe country with a very low crime rate, making it a great place to raise a family.
Since we moved here, I’ve been able to spend a lot of quality time with my wife and two young children. Since we normally train at night, I have time to take my daughter to school and then spend the rest of the morning playing with my son. At the weekend, there are lots of nice things to do. I often eat out in one of the many restaurants in Doha, such as Lo Spaghetto, which is excellent for Italian food, or Bibo, a Spanish restaurant, for a taste of home. Also, the beach hotels here are amazing and a great place to relax on the weekends, although recently, with the football season in full swing, I haven’t had that much time to enjoy this part of life in Qatar.
Since moving to Qatar, I have also had the opportunity to work with some amazing charities. One of the projects, Generation Amazing, has earned a place in my heart. They use football to empower and educate young people and teach them important life skills. The program recently celebrated its 10th anniversary and it’s been a pleasure to watch it grow to the point that it has already helped more than 500,000 people in ten countries. Some of the projects have included building football pitches in refugee camps and setting sustainability programs to ensure efficient use of the facilities. I’ve attended opening ceremonies for facilities like these in Jordan and India, and I have seen the enormous impact they have on communities.
While I had initially only planned to stay in Qatar to see out my playing career, when I was presented with the opportunity to take over as Al Sadd coach, I was excited. My family and I really loved Qatar and the way of life here, so it was an excellent opportunity to take the first step in my coaching career and oversee a team with promising players who will likely be part of the Qatar national team in 2022. Having played for Al Sadd, I knew it would be a fantastic place to transition into coaching and help develop some of these players.
It took me a while to adjust to my new life as a coach, but I’m really enjoying it. My philosophy is the same as when I was a player: I like to play football in a positive style. As a player I liked to have the ball, maintain possession, go on the attack and create as many chances as possible. I play possession-based football, at a fast pace, and I like my players to understand the importance of playing as a team. Everyone has to defend together and attack together. Above all players should enjoy playing football, and the best way to enjoy it is to have the ball, create a lot of chances and score a lot of goals. This is what football was like for me and it’s how I want my players to experience it when they’re playing under me.
We’re going to play Al Arabi in the final of the Emir Cup. It is the most prestigious competition in Qatar and a tournament that all the players here want to win. It will be the first match to be played at the Al Rayyan, one of the eight stadiums that will host World Cup matches in 2022. The match will be held on December 18, Qatar’s National Day, and will mark the countdown of two years until the World Cup final. The stadium will also be at 50 percent capacity, which will be great for the players and should create a good atmosphere and a match to be remembered after a tough period for everyone.
In my time here, I’ve seen that football is developing very well in Qatar. The World Cup project meant that they had to really focus on developing not just first-class facilities and stadiums to host the tournament, but a national team capable of competing on the biggest stage with the best teams in the world. Aspire Academy, which was founded in 2004 to help develop football players and other athletes in the country, has been a great success. The new generation of players arriving in Qatar is improving a lot. I can see this improvement with my own players at Al Sadd and it is a privilege to work with them every day and help them gain confidence.
With the current pace of development, and having recently won the AFC Asian Cup, I think Qatar can compete very well in its first World Cup in 2022. Football culture is growing at a tremendous speed here and I believe that the World Cup will help take them to the next level, not just in Qatar but throughout the Arab world. While later it will be time to take the next step in my career, for now, I am focused on enjoying my time here and making the most of the opportunity to play a small role in Qatar’s exciting journey leading up to 2022.