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Thursday Kickoff: Xavi confirms Barcelona departure; Sterling’s agent hits out at Liverpool; and more

XaviBarcelona3 (Eurosport)


A man who FC Barcelona refers to as the “architect” of their success over the past 15 years has announced that he’s leaving the club for a new challenge.

Xavi confirmed reports at a press conference in Barcelona on Thursday, announcing that he will be leaving the club at the end of the season to sign with Qatari club Al-Sadd, the former club of fellow Spanish National Team legend Raul.

”I feel that I need to leave,” Xavi told reporters, via the AP. ”I am 35 and I have spent 17 seasons here. I think it is the moment to leave.”

In 17 years with Barcelona’s first team, Xavi has helped lead the club to an incredible 23 trophies, including eight La Liga titles and three UEFA Champions League titles. Xavi can take his personal trophy account to 25 with both the Copa Del Rey and Champions League still up for grabs. He holds the record for most appearances at the club with 866 including friendly matches.

”The only thing left is to win the last two finals,” Xavi said. ”This finale is special for me, spectacular. The script couldn’t be better.”

Xavi will have one last chance to say good bye to Barcelona fans this Saturday in the final home league match against Deportivo La Coruña. According to multiple reports, Xavi was close to joining New York City FC after Spain’s disastrous World Cup in Brazil before then-newly hired head coach Luis Enrique called Xavi up and convinced him to stay.

Here are some more stories to kick off your Thursday:


It’s looking less and less likely that Raheem Sterling will be a part of Liverpool’s plans moving forward.

According to a report out of the London Evening Standard, Sterling’s agent Aidy Ward has hit out at Liverpool, claiming that Sterling wouldn’t sign a new contract with the club even if they would pay him nearly £1 million per week, which of course the club weren’t offering.

“I don’t care about the PR of the club and the club situation. I don’t care,” Ward reportedly said. “He is definitely not signing. He’s not signing for £700,000, £800,000, £900,000 a week. He is not signing. My job is to make sure I do the best with them [my clients]. If people say I am bad at my job, or they are badly advised it does not matter.”

Sterling, just 20-years old, has scored seven goals in the English Premier League in 35 appearances, with 34 starts. Multiple reports in England claim that Chelsea, Manchester United, and Manchester City are all interested in signing the England winger.


England manager Roy Hodgson has called in three new players to the England National Team who have shown promise over the course of the season.

In addition to regulars such as Phil Jones, Wayne Rooney, Joe Hart, and Jordan Henderson, Hodgson included Queens Park Rangers forward Charlie Austin, Leicester City forward Jamie Vardy, and Burnley goalkeeper Tom Heaten to a 24-man squad for a friendly match at the Republic of Ireland on June 7 and a Euro 2016 qualifying match at Slovenia on June 14.

“I’m pleased with the squad and pleased to welcome three people who get the chance, due to some extent, to the Under-21s squad for the Euros,” Hodgson told the FA. “We’ve always had our eye on Charlie [Austin], but up to this point we haven’t had the space in the squad. We’ll give him every chance.

“I saw Jamie Vardy at Fleetwood and players like him who like running in behind defenders are good for coaches. He’s had a good season. In the latter part of the season, he had a great run with Leicester and it will be good to get to know him.”


Netherlands FA chief Michael Van Praag has confirmed reports that he is dropping out of the race for the FIFA presidency. (REPORT)

Reports out of Barcelona claim that FC Barcelona are the most likely club for Paul Pogba to move to if he leaves Juventus this summer. (REPORT)

Tottenham has allowed forward Emmanuel Adebayor to return home to Togo to sort out personal issues, meaning he’ll miss Spurs last EPL match against Everton and Spurs’ postseason tour of Malaysia. (REPORT)

Danish midfielder Michael Krohn-Delhi is leaving Celta Vigo in the summer. (REPORT)


What do you think of these reports? How will you remember Xavi’s time at Barcelona? Where does he stand in the pantheon of Barcelona legends? Do you see Sterling leaving Liverpool this summer?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. Sterling’s agent sounds like a tool…better yet, a child who just got made fun of…

    “oh yeah, well you can’t come to my birthday party!”

  2. Guti, Riquelme, Ronaldinho, now Xavi all passed up. For Tim Cahill, Sacha Kljestan, and Frank Lampard. It’s obvious that most MLS owners haven’t watched much soccer.

    • Passed up?
      Didn’t want to overpay is a better way to look at it. Tim Cahill was unquestionably a good deal for NY. Sacha is too soon to tell, as is Lampard.
      How much did you want to pay for a totally out of shape Ronaldinho? MLS certainly made the right choice there.
      I imagine that Qatar will be paying Xavi a crazy amount…I love him, but not at $10 Million a year.
      Personally, I think any signing that makes MLS looks like a retirement league is a bad signing.

      • What is the point of a DP? To get people to come to the games (and watch on TV) and to provide a skill set that your typical MLS player cannot.

        Guti wanted to go to the MLS and the Red Bulls turned him down for Tim Cahill. The Red Bulls turned down one of the most exciting players to watch of all time for one of the most utilitarian, unflashy you can find. Instead of picking a player with skill and creativity on a different level from anyone that has ever played in the league, they picked a player whose main strength is his work rate and physicality. How many other players in the MLS are athletic and have lots of heart? There are hundreds of American players in the same exact mold as Tim Cahill (who isn’t even a big name, either) and none like Guti (ever). Tim Cahill left the Red Bulls after two seasons and not exactly on good terms. And unlike Guti, his game depends entirely on his athleticism, which was deteriorating.

        Ronaldinho may not have a lot of hustle but the quality is still there. Queretaro is in the semi-finals of the Liga MX playoffs and I, along with many other people, would tune in to check out an out of shape Ronaldinho dribble circles around MLS defenders even if he doesn’t track back afterwards (that’s what the American players are for). He is one of the most famous soccer players of all time and still has more skill on the ball than anyone who has ever played in the MLS. You don’t think we have room for just one player who is slow but actually incredibly gifted in terms of soccer skills? You don’t think he would get more people to watch than Sacha Kljestan?

        Frank Lampard is turning 37 in a month and will get six million a year to play a season and a half. He’s an old, slow box-to-box midfielder who needs talent around him to thrive, and there are plenty of MLS players who would do much better in the same role. How many MLS players have a similar style to Xavi (in the history of the league)? NYCFC would have done well to pay him four million more than sign Fat Frank. Xavi was never fast so he has a few good years left in him and he is still one of the best midfielders in the world.

        Riquelme retired a couple of months ago and still has more quality in his left foot than anyone who ever played in the MLS. Sure, he’s old and slow, but hustling was never his job, and we have room for at least one of those guys in the MLS. For once, just once, I want to see someone play in the MLS who is described with words like “skilled,” “creative,” “virtuoso,” “exciting,” rather than “tough,” “big,” or “fast.”

      • Right, because Kaka, David Villa, Robbie Keane, and Sebastian Giovinco certainly aren’t creative and skilled.

        Getting DPs into MLS is about getting players that are still productive and not unreasonably priced. Why do you think Xavi is going to Qatar? For a massive payday that no one in MLS would have matched.

        You seem to have an odd idea that the players you mentioned were pleading to play in MLS and they were turned down. Guti chose Turkey instead, and after a terrible year there he retired.
        Riquelme, as you noted, is also retired. Do you really think he couldn’t have signed in MLS if he wanted to instead?

      • Kaka, Villa, and Giovinco, along with Beckham were the best signings in the history of the league…but considering the fact that China and the Middle East aren’t exactly ideal places for westerners to live, we should be grabbing these types of players regularly (Giovinco though was surprising and a huge coup for the league).

        Keane was a good signing for what he accomplished on the field but again, not someone who is going to bring new viewers (no name recognition, unflashy). And again, there are plenty of other MLS players in his mold, even if none are of the same quality. Also one of the best signings in MLS history, but given the circumstances, we should be expecting players like him to come over.

        Xavi isn’t paid that much more than Frank and is younger and a much better player (and will continue to be, since his game does not rely on athleticism). But I’ll bet that no MLS team would have had to match that amount of money, a relatively comparable offer would have done the trick…living in New York or Los Angeles is definitely preferable to being stuck in Doha.

        And as far as Guti goes, you’re misinformed. He was a vital cog in the 2009-2010 Real Madrid team that ended the season with more points than any other in history. When Mourinho got rid of him (because he and Raul were club icons more loyal to Madrid than to Mourinho), the team was weakened and suffered visibly whenever Alonso couldn’t play (the loss versus Osasuna, for example) because of the lack of a deep-lying playmaker. Guti publicly expressed interest in playing in the MLS, but none of the owners would take him because they don’t like ‘unathletic,’ technically gifted players. After a year at Besitkas, where he showed his old brilliance at times (you did not watch him play there obviously), he again said he wanted to come play in the US, but since the Red Bulls and Galaxy were uninterested and he never really felt comfortable in Turkey, he retired.

        Riquelme always made it clear that he would have been interested in playing in the MLS and after no offers were made, he quit soccer. No MLS owner made any effort to sign arguably the most exciting player of his generation (along with Dinho, who was also passed over), though Sacha Kljestan was given a DP contract. These are decisions of people who have not been watching soccer for very long.

      • You really believe that about Riquelme and Guti? You really think not one MLS team would take them? The fact is, both of them had specific markets they wanted to go to, and specific salary demands. Blame them for not playing in MLS…I guarantee if either of them wanted to play in Columbus for $1 Million a year, they’d be in MLS.

      • Guti wanted to play for the Red Bulls and they signed Tim Cahill instead. Anyone who would rather watch Cahill than Guti has clearly never watched soccer before.

        And this time around NYCFC signed Frank Lampard rather than Riquelme. The Red Bulls preferred Sacha Kljestan. Anyone who would rather watch Lampard or Kljestan than Riquelme hasn’t watched much soccer, either.

  3. I wonder if Xavi will end up leaving this Qatar team the same way other players hav left teams in the Middle East or China when they either notice it’s not a great situation to be in…or the club doesn’t pay them as promised… (the latter being more about clubs in China) I mean has any big European player talked about their experience in those Clubs in Qatar being a good one?

  4. Fixed his statement:

    ”I feel that I need to leave,” Xavi told reporters, via the AP. ”I am 35 and I have spent 17 seasons here. I think it is the moment FOR ONE LAST BIG PAY DAY.”

    I don’t begrudge him that at all, but let’s call it what it is.

    • Yup…nothing wrong with padding the bank account before retiring…can’t wait to see what they’re paying him.
      I’m guessing north of $10 Million.

  5. What it really comes down to is, there are exactly seven pure buying clubs in the world. The two Manchesters and Chelsea in the EPL. Bayern. PSG. And Real Madrid and Barcelona. EVERYBODY else is some manner of selling club, organ donors for the true supers. Even Juventus, with the weak state of the Italian economy and lack of oil-shiekh financier, is still, at the end of the day, compelled to sell guys like Pogba, and even the likes of Liverpool can’t hold onto Sterling.

    It will be the rarest of occasions when anybody except these seven wins their leagues, makes the semifinal round of the Champions League, or earns (or keeps) the signature of a truly top player. When you get the rare exception – Atletico, Dortmund, Liverpool of last year – the big seven swoop in and buy their players, and they’re done.

    The more I watch this unfold, the gladder I get that MLS is going to route it’s going. Yes, it’s slow, painfully ponderous to watch, and sometimes comical, as when LA Galaxy tried to sign Lletget a few days back and found the Revs had already “discovered” him and thus owed New England $50K just because the Revs had essentially yelled “dibs!” first. But at the end of the day we now have a 20-team league whose members can all legitimately aspire to win the league, and none of them are being permitted to just summarily spend ten times as much as everybody else and buy everybody else’s best players.

    Right now teams are spending less than $4 million plus designated players on payroll. As MLS continues to expand and its TV contracts and marketing impact increases, I think you’ll see this start to soar. Eventually (as in, probably in less than ten years) I think instead of a league where the top teams are spending $100 million or so on payroll, as you’re seeing with Real Madrid and the other six meta-elite teams, while their competitors are spending a fifth that or less, I think you’ll see a situation where you’ve got a 28 or even 32-team league…each spending $30+ million, with the talent distributed across the entirety of the league. Sure, MLS’s top teams, under this model, will probably never be quite equal to a Barca or a Bayern…but so what, if the overall level of the league is sufficiently high, and every team involved can legitimately aspire to a title if they build and develop well, and hold onto their top players?

    I admire the top level of soccer among these elite superteams, but the consequences of just allowing the top teams to stack the deck so heavily in their favor are just too durn high.And the so-called “Financial Fair Play” rule just sort of perma-locks the current status quo in place.

    Now the summer spending spree on everybody else’s players begins afresh, for the big seven. Like this every year…and will be in the foreseeable future, in Europe.

    • quozzel is spot on. This have and have nots will only get worse. Financial Fair Play is there to protect it. The money in Champs Leauge will enhance it.

      Rich D can try to dimish the facts all he wants with some technicality, but the reality is there.

      MLS is perfectly positioned for this. More money will always be better for the league, but even with meager resources it has now, most players when they leave the handful of buying clubs, would rather play in a competitive league than go to a non-buying club in the same league and be assured of losing all the time. As MLS has revenues increase this will happen more and more. We already see it, not like I am some great seer.

      Good luck to secondary teams in Europe at that point. If the money difference gets bigger, it will, and the players would rather play elsewhere, and they will, the gap between buyers and non buyers in the same league will widen, which doesn’t even seem possible in some cases.

    • Nope, the Union are toast for the foreseeable future….

      One of the fundamental reasons that the NFL is so successful is every team is good some of the time, and the reason for that is a salary cap. The players have some buy in to the fact that a competitive league floats all boats, and they maximize their money by increasing the league revenue.

    • Let me know when this idyllic scenario comes to be because right now I don’t see any reason to watch MLS instead of one of the good games on TV. That’s assuming MLS games are even on TV.

      • Falcao, you do understand that the league can’t get better until the tv contracts get a lot bigger. And the only reason the contracts would increase is if viewship increases. Your attitude is why the league can only pay its players what it does. Because the games attract small viewership.
        Your attitude is arogant and it flat out sucks!

    • All good points about the advantages of the MLS system — none of which have anything to do with Garber’s (and the owners’) indecipherable, alternate-reality player allocation system. A salary cap, perhaps with flexibility for DPs, is enough.

    • In actuality, there are only TWO pure buying clubs in the world(if that’s the term to use). I prefer to say, every club in the world is a feeder club on some level to Barca and Madrid. Those are the two clubs that can buy a player off any team they want to- big or small.
      The others- Manchester clubs, PSG, Bayern, Chelsea, Juventus, are all on the lowest level of feeder clubs in that they are more likely to be able to stop as player leaving for greener pastures, than say Tottenham, Liverpool, Dortmund, etc.

    • You make some good points, and as much as parity has its merits, it does have its drawbacks.

      In any other country, the graduated tier system enables players and coaches to climb the ladder as they develop until they reach the top and move to a better league (aside from Spain, Germany, or England). They start at whatever level is right for them and can move their way up at their own pace. In US soccer, this isn’t possible. When young players graduate from academies, they are in an awkward position. They’re probably not quite good enough to play in the MLS but without a reserve league or second division, there’s nowhere for them to play. Sure, they can go on loan to a USL team, but the standard is too low and the style of play too primitive. Coaches face the same problem. Moreover, in any other league, a player works his way up until he is playing for one of the top teams and is surrounded by the league’s best players playing quality soccer. Soccer isn’t like American sports; a player surrounded by mediocre teammates playing mediocre soccer is under a ceiling until he moves to a better team. American prodigies don’t have a good place to go before they’re quite ready for MLS and once they start to do well there they don’t have a chance to move to a team that will take them to the next level–unless of course they move to a different league. All MLS teams are relatively the same, so rather than staying in the league and moving to an elite team that plays quality soccer (nonexistent in the MLS because of the salary cap), his only choice is to move abroad, which is a massive jump.

      Moreover, we need more than just big TV contracts to move to the next level. The majority of MLS players will always be American and paying them more will not make them better players; improving the academy system will. Argentina still has one the world’s best leagues (top ten) even though the salaries there are horrible: its culture has so much quality from the ground up that it produces a huge number of quality players and coaches. Even if the best always leave, you still have a league full of very solid players and coaches. We can’t even think about being a top league until we produce this kind of quality from the bottom up.

      What I will say though that the franchise system, salary cap, and playoffs are all necessary for the MLS to succeed in the US. But we can’t forget that it does have some drawbacks.

    • Before we start comparing MLS clubs with likes of Bayern or Barca, MLS needs to become competitive with Mexican teams. I used to be optimistic about MLS catching up with and overtaking Mexican league, but MLS business model hampers the quality of product on the field and I am a lot less upbeat about MLS prospects. However, if MLS adopts the mainstream market based model instead of single entity closed system structure, things will change rapidly for the better.

    • I generally agree with you. One minor point is that Real Madrid belongs in that list. Another is that there are regional “buying” clubs that buy up talent in their region and occasionally sell on to bigger clubs – examples include a few Brazilian, Mexican, and South African clubs. Another is that the group of “pure buying clubs” is more dynamic than you acknowledge. Within the 10 years ago Man City and PSG would not be there. 15 years ago Arsenal, Juventus, and both Milan clubs probably would be. In the past 5-10 years Monaco and Malaga came and went.
      One last thing to you analysts out there… FOLLOW THE MONEY


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