Former Barcelona star Xavi hailed Neymar as "spectacular" as the Brazilian continues to be linked with a return to the LaLiga club.

Neymar, 27, is said to want a move back to Camp Nou after two seasons with Paris Saint-Germain.

His head coach, Thomas Tuchel, admitted to knowing about the forward's desire before the Copa America began over a month ago.

Barca have reportedly made contact with PSG about executing a deal for the player who is revered by club favourite Xavi, a team-mate of Neymar's for two seasons.

"In terms of football, he is a bomb, he is spectacular," Xavi said.

"I consider him a good guy, humble, a hard worker that gave his best at Barcelona.

"But it is Barcelona who need to make that decision. I want the best for Barca. If someone can guarantee that Neymar will have success at Barca again, I would be the first to want him to come back.

"But you never know. It all depends on Barcelona and their decisions."

While uncertainty surrounds Neymar's future, Barca have already secured one top target in Antoine Griezmann.

The France forward made his debut alongside Frenkie de Jong as Ernesto Valverde's men suffered a 2-1 defeat to Chelsea this week.

Xavi has been impressed with Netherlands international De Jong, a fellow midfielder, and also believes the experienced Arturo Vidal still has a role to play for the LaLiga champions.

"Both are good," said former Spain international Xavi, who now coaches Qatari side Al Sadd.

"Arturo Vidal gives you so many things like intensity, he gives you timing, sacrifice, he steals balls, he doesn't lose them easily. I think he is a complete footballer.

"He is a footballer with a very good level, like De Jong. We saw the other day [De Jong] is a footballer who can mark an era in Barcelona.

"He is able to dominate the game, he sees it easily and doesn't lose the ball.

"He also makes sacrifices to work defensively. I think they are top-level players, very good for Barca."

Neymar returning to Barcelona would be "incredible", though former star Xavi insisted a transfer to re-sign the Paris Saint-Germain forward would be "very difficult".

LaLiga champions Barca have been linked to Neymar, who left Camp Nou for French giants PSG in a world-record €222million deal in 2017.

PSG sporting director Leonardo confirmed Neymar – who failed to turn up to the first day of pre-season training – is available for the right price.

Xavi played alongside Neymar before moving to Qatari side Al Sadd in 2015 and the 39-year-old told Movistar: "He would be an incredible signing.

"But I see it as being difficult, honestly. I think it's very difficult.

"We have seen so many things that I thought I'd never see though, such as PSG paying €222 million, so we'll have to wait.

"There's no doubt that he's one of the best players in the world, but let's see what Barcelona do."

While Neymar's future is uncertain, Atletico Madrid star Antoine Griezmann is reportedly set to join Barca.

France international and World Cup winner Griezmann – who has a €120million release clause – will leave Atletico after five years and Barca are favourites to sign the forward.

"He's a great player, a world star," Xavi added. "He made a difference with Atletico Madrid and with France. He's an extraordinary player.

"It's still not official, but it seems like he's going to Barcelona. I think it'll be a great signing."

Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong played down comparisons to club greats Xavi and Andres Iniesta.

De Jong, 22, was signed by the LaLiga champions from Ajax in January for a reported €75million, but only made the move at the end of the season.

The Netherlands international has already been compared to Xavi and Iniesta, however, De Jong had no interest in discussing any similarities.

"I don't want to be compared with those players," De Jong told Barca TV.

"It's the perfect club for a midfielder. They hold onto the ball well, they control the play, it suits me perfectly."

De Jong joins Barcelona after a fine season with Ajax, winning a domestic double and reaching the Champions League semi-finals.

Barca were also eliminated in the semis, continuing their wait for a first Champions League crown since 2015.

Discussing his goals for 2019-20, De Jong is eager to be a regular starter for Barca – and he wants to help deliver in Europe.

"I want to start most games. All players want that. I'll work as hard as I can in training to show what I can do in games," he said.

"I like to play attacking football, for it to be attractive and for people to have fun when they come to the stadium.

"Both me and Barca are really keen to win the Champions League this year and I hope that's what happens."

Barcelona great Xavi has made his first move into coaching, taking over at Qatari side Al Sadd, where he spent the last four seasons of his playing career.

Xavi announced his retirement on May 2, and the 39-year-old played his final match on May 20, in an AFC Champions League defeat to Persepolis.

And having outlined his plans to become a coach, it has now been confirmed that the former Spain midfielder shall take charge of Al Sadd.

Xavi will officially take over for the 2019-20 campaign, with Al Sadd set to travel to Girona for a pre-season training camp.

With Ernesto Valverde's future at Barca reportedly in doubt, Xavi had been touted as a possible replacement, but he must now prove himself in Qatar before any potential move to Camp Nou.

Xavi moved to Al Sadd in 2015, after bringing the curtain down on his Barca career, and counts eight LaLiga titles, three Copas del Rey and four Champions Leagues among his honours from his time in Catalonia. 

Antoine Griezmann's decision to turn down a move to Barcelona last year "hurt" the club, according to Xavi.

Griezmann was strongly linked with signing for Barca after the 2017-18 season but he eventually announced in a televised documentary he would stay at Atletico Madrid.

However, after Barca held off Atleti to defend their LaLiga crown, France forward Griezmann confirmed his intention to leave the Madrid club after five years.

Barca are reportedly again front-runners for his signature, though head coach Ernesto Valverde has refused to discuss how Griezmann could fit into a forward line with Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.

And Xavi, who won eight LaLiga titles at Barca and made his last professional appearance for Al-Sadd before hanging up his boots this week, hinted there may be leftover bad feeling at Camp Nou over Griezmann's previous rejection of a move.

"I understand it hurt what he did last summer," Xavi said to Sport. "If the reason for the rejection [from Barca players] was only a footballing issue, I'd speak with the dressing room to make them see he's a player who can bring something.

"We have to see, however, who is signing him? The sporting director? Valverde? The president? If I came to Barca I would ask for the signings, and if the dressing room doesn't agree with any of them I'd speak with them, but in the end I decide. Be it Griezmann or whoever.

"Another thing would be if the coach doesn't want him either. Then we have a problem."

Barca have given Valverde their backing despite their latest Champions League disappointment, with Xavi making his ambitions to coach at Camp Nou clear.

"If one day I come back to Barcelona it's all a consequence of knowing that I will be judged," he added.

"Everyone wants to be at a big team. It would be more comfortable to go to a second division club but I'm competitive and I like big challenges.

"I know what will come, I will go bald or my hair will turn white, but it is what it is."

Messi made it clear the Champions League was Barca's top priority in 2018-19 but he was unable to add to the four European titles he has won at the club.

"That's more than a few, we only had one before," Messi's former team-mate Xavi said. "We were able to win more but it's hard to win the Champions League.

"[Pep] Guardiola's Barca were better than the rest of the teams and we only won two of four. Chelsea and Inter knocked us out. But be calm, Messi's not finished yet.

"We always talk about the post-Messi era, but Leo has three or four good years left. At the top level, like now, because he looks after himself, he's incredibly professional, he's physically strong, a beast mentally. He's the number one at everything."

Spain and Barcelona icon Xavi played the final match of his playing career in Al Sadd's 2-0 AFC Champions League defeat to Persepolis on Monday.

One of the most decorated players in football history, Xavi won 19 honours during his 17-year Barca stay and also enjoyed great success on the international stage, winning the World Cup and Euro 2008 and 2012 with Spain.

He joined Qatari club Al Sadd in 2015 to see out his playing days and on Monday he pulled on their jersey for the last time after announcing his impending retirement earlier this month, as he bids to embark on a coaching career.

Before kick-off in Tehran's Azadi Stadium, Xavi was honoured with a framed commemorative jersey and other gifts.

He was not able go out with a victory, though, as Al Sadd – who are already assured of a place in the knockout phase of the competition – were downed by goals from Mehdi Torabi and Ali Alipour, though Persepolis bow out anyway.

In Group C, Al Duhail scored a last-gasp equaliser in a 2-2 draw with Al Hilal to join their visitors in the next round, resulting in Esteghlal's campaign coming to a close despite beating Al Ain 2-1 on the road.

In the day's late kick-off, Al Ahli scored a stoppage-time winner to defeat Pakhtakor 2-1 and secure qualification at their visitors' expense, with Abdulrahman Ghareeb's fierce strike doing the damage just moments after Igor Sergeev's equaliser had seemingly sealed a draw.

Barcelona head coach Ernesto Valverde has no doubt that Xavi has the potential to take the top job at Camp Nou in the future.

Xavi confirmed on Thursday he will retire from playing at the end of the season and move into coaching, having left Barca at the end of the treble-winning 2014-15 campaign to join Al Sadd in the Qatar Stars League.

One of the most decorated players in football history, Xavi won 19 major honours during a 17-year stay with Barca, including eight LaLiga crowns and a remarkable four Champions League titles.

And Valverde, who looks well placed to guide the club to the treble in only his second season in charge, paid tribute to the retiring great in a media conference on Friday.

"He's one of the best midfielders of recent years, he played the position game, no pass was inconsequential," said Valverde ahead of Saturday's trip to Celta Vigo.

"Xavi is one of the best players in the history of football. It was amazing to watch him play.

"Of course he has the profile to be a Barca coach. I wish him luck, of course."

Xavi has confirmed his impending retirement and the Barcelona icon will go down in history as one of the greatest midfielders to play the game.

The former Spain international, 39, plans to move into coaching at the end of the season after trying to lead Al Sadd to Emir Cup glory. 

Xavi - a product of Barca's fabled La Masia academy - won eight LaLiga titles, four Champions Leagues and a trio of Copas del Rey during a glittering era for the Catalan club.

With the help of Opta numbers, we assess the career of one of the classiest players to grace the Camp Nou pitch.

 

767 - Xavi holds the Barcelona appearance record, with only current captain Lionel Messi (682) and Andres Iniesta (674) within 100 matches of his 767 games for the club.

9 - Only nine players in LaLiga history have played more than 500 times in the competition. Xavi's 505 LaLiga games is some way short of Andoni Zubizarreta's record of 622, however.

13 - Xavi tasted defeat to Barca's Clasico rivals Real Madrid on 13 occasions, playing in the fixture an incredible 42 times. He scored five goals against Los Blancos.

25 - His record in the Catalan derby against Espanyol was brilliant, though. Xavi – who scored six goals in the fixture – featured in it 36 times and was victorious in 25.

133 - World Cup winner Xavi played 133 times for Spain, making him one of 13 men to have reached a century of caps for the country. Only his former international team-mates Sergio Ramos (162) and Iker Casillas (167) have made more appearances for Spain than him.

1,000 - While not a prolific midfielder, Xavi recorded the 1,000th goal in the history of the Spanish national team. It came when they beat Northern Ireland 3-2 in a European Championship qualifier in September 2006.

Spain and Barcelona midfield great Xavi has confirmed his intention to finish playing at the end of this season and move into coaching. 

The 39-year-old has represented Al Sadd in the Qatar Stars League since leaving Barca at the end of their treble-winning 2014-15 campaign. 

Xavi initially said he would retire at the end of last season but postponed these plans and signed a two-year contract extension 12 months ago. 

However, he again spoke of a desire to bring down the curtain on his celebrated playing days last November and now hopes to sign off by helping Al Sadd to Emir Cup glory. 

"Over the coming four weeks, I will be lacing my boots for the last games of an unforgettable career, which has spanned over 21 years and taken me to every corner of the world," Xavi said. 

"It has been a fantastic end to my playing career here in Qatar. Winning the Qatar Stars League this month was the title that was missing. Since I arrived here we have won everything and only the league was missing, so I'm very happy. 

"As a sportsperson, you never get tired of winning. Once you have won a title you always want to win more." 

Xavi's overall title haul is plentiful and includes eight LaLiga triumphs and four Champions Leagues, while he played a pivotal role in Spain's 2010 World Cup win – a moment of glory that came in between their successes at Euro 2008 and Euro 2012. 

If more trophies are to follow in his coaching career, they will do so with Xavi following a familiar model. 

"You will see that my coaching philosophy reflects the style that we were able to develop over many years through the influence of Johan Cruyff, La Masia and the Barcelona way of playing football," he said. 

"I love to see teams taking the initiative on the pitch, playing attacking football and going back to the essence of what we all love about this game since our childhood days; having possession of the football." 

Xavi added: "I have been privileged to achieve everything that I was able to do over the past two decades." 

Barcelona issued a statement on their website playing tribute to their former captain, who won a total of 25 trophies with the LaLiga giants while playing under the likes of Louis van Gaal, Frank Rijkaard, Pep Guardiola and Luis Enrique.   "Xavi is a living example of FC Barcelona's emblematic style of play," it read, under a heading describing Xavi as Barca's "torchbearer".   "He arrived at the club in the 1991-92 season to play for Under-12 team and La Masia became the place where he learned the fundamentals of the midfield from the man who would become his friend and mentor, Pep Guardiola, who Xavi would later succeed as the backbone of the Barca midfield for almost two decades."

Xavi scored a superb free-kick and set up the winner as Al Sadd overcame Pakhtakor 2-1 in the AFC Champions League to go top of Group D.

With Al Ahli having beaten 2018 runners up Persepolis 2-1 earlier on Monday, Al Sadd got off the mark nine minutes in when Xavi – who netted a double in a 2-2 draw in the reverse fixture two weeks ago – curled in a sublime set-piece from 20 yards.

Pakhtakor restored parity through Egor Krimets' close-range header, and that looked set to be enough for a point until Baghdad Bounedjah regained possession deep in the visitors' half, exchanged a quick one-two with Xavi and picked out the bottom-right corner in the 87th minute.

In Abu Dhabi, Leonardo scored four as Al Wahda came from two goals down to beat Al Rayyan 4-3 in a thrilling Group B contest.

Sebastian Soria put Al Rayyan ahead inside two minutes, with Gelmin Rivas scoring either side of Leonardo's first goal in a whirlwind start.

But Leonardo pulled another back early in the second half before converting twice more in the space of seven minutes late on to secure a third successive win.

Lokomotiv Tashkent, who had Islom Tukhtakhujaev sent off in the 75th minute, held on to draw 1-1 at home to Al-Ittihad in the other Group B match.

Spain legend and World Cup 2022 global ambassador Xavi believes a 48-team tournament in Qatar 'will not be good'.

In 2017, FIFA voted to add an extra 16 teams to the 2026 competition, which will be held in the United States, Canada and Mexico.

The Qatar tournament is currently scheduled to take place between November 21 and December 18 2022 with 32 teams, but FIFA president Gianni Infantino is pushing to bring forward the expansion.

At a FIFA Council meeting in Miami on Monday, the governing body decided to defer the final expansion decision.

Official Statement from the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy on the ongoing discussions around the possible expansion of the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar pic.twitter.com/Y8vexGRJXd

— Qatar Football Association (@QFA_EN) March 15, 2019

Xavi, a 2010 World Cup winner who now plays in the Qatar Stars League for Al Sadd, believes 32 teams is 'more than enough' for Qatar.

"It's too much and too long," said Xavi.

"Imagine 48 teams in Qatar, it will not be good in my opinion.

"It's still for the organisers to decide, but for now Qatar is doing everything to prepare for 32 teams and it will be difficult to change it for more teams.

"Also, it's good for football to have 32. That's more than enough."

Felix Sanchez wants midfield great Xavi to predict all of Qatar's results after the former Barcelona maestro successfully foretold their Asian Cup triumph.

Qatar claimed their first major honour on Friday with a 3-1 final win over Japan, as Almoez Ali, Abdelaziz Hatim and Akram Hassan Afif scored in a stunning victory.

Sanchez's men consequently delivered on the forecast from his fellow Spaniard Xavi, who plays in the country for Al Sadd.

The Qatar head coach responded at full-time by suggesting the 39-year-old could become a lucky charm.

"I'm going to call [Xavi] and tell him to predict all the next games just to make sure that we know what's going to happen in the future," former Barca youth coach Sanchez said.

"With regards to Xavi, he is a great person and he is supporting us a lot. I'm very happy also for him."

Sanchez was delighted with both sides of Qatar's game as they excelled in attack in the opening period before standing firm after Takumi Minamino breached their defence for the first time in the tournament.

"I have no words. We beat an outstanding, outstanding team," he said.

"In the first half, we played very well. In the second half, we had to defend a lot because obviously they want to win the title as well. It was a very tough game. We suffered and we know how to suffer.

"I'm very happy for the players and all of the people in Qatar who have supported us from the beginning. It's very well deserved. I'm very happy. I have no words."

Barcelona legend Xavi believes Bayern Munich star Joshua Kimmich would fit perfectly at Camp Nou.

Barcelona great Xavi believes there is no chance Neymar will return to the LaLiga champions.

Neymar is in his second season at Paris Saint-Germain after leaving Camp Nou in 2017, but the 26-year-old is already linked with a return to Barca.

The Brazil star reportedly met with Andre Cury, an advisor to Barca in terms of signings, during the international break.

But Xavi – who won eight LaLiga titles and four Champions Leagues at Barca – dismissed any suggestions Neymar could return to the club.

"I don't see it. I don't see it. I also think it didn't work out well, I don't see it in any way," he told Cadena SER on Thursday.

"I read a lot of press because I'm up to date with everything football, but I see zero chances that Neymar can return to Barcelona."

Neymar has scored 13 goals in 16 games for PSG this season as he enjoys another prolific campaign.

Xavi praised the former Santos star's ability and believes Neymar can reach the same level as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

"If he is mature and works, he will be close to Cristiano and Messi," he said.

"He can be decisive, but it depends on him."

Pep Guardiola can leave a lasting legacy at Manchester City and match his achievements at Barcelona, according to Xavi.

During a four-year spell in charge at Camp Nou, Guardiola won 11 major trophies, including three LaLiga titles and the Champions League on two occasions.

Spain legend Xavi played an influential role in that glorious era and believes his old boss has the capacity to shape a City side that will go down in history alongside that fabled Barca outfit.

After failing to pick up a trophy in his first season at the Etihad Stadium, Guardiola guided City to a record-breaking Premier League triumph in 2017-18, as well as the EFL Cup, and Xavi knows there will be more success to come.

"Pep will only improve Manchester City," he told The Express. "People were impressed at how they won the title last season, but there will be more.

"He's always looking to improve, always looking to better the team. The next target will be the Champions League and under him I think they will do it.

"He built something at Barcelona that will always be remembered in football history. He can do the same in Manchester.

"In football, it's not just what you achieve but how you achieve it. Manchester City are playing great football and I can guarantee that the players will be enjoying training sessions as well as the games.

"They will be getting more touches on the ball than they did before Pep, and that's not just the attacking players but all of the team; he likes the whole team to play football."

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