• Soccer

Xavi Won’t Continue at Barcelona after This Season, Citing ‘Lack of Respect’ and Mental Fatigue

AP Photo/Joan Monfort
Barcelona’s head coach Xavi Hernandez reacts during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between Barcelona and Villarreal at the Olimpic Lluis Companys stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024.

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Xavi Hernández won’t continue as Barcelona’s coach after this season, saying he can’t get the team out of a slump.

Xavi announced his decision on Saturday, minutes after Barcelona lost to Villarreal 5-3 in the Spanish league, leaving it 10 points adrift of leader Real Madrid.

“I would like to announce that on June 30 I will cease being the coach of Barça,” Xavi said. “As a Barcelona fan, I can’t allow this situation to continue, we need a change of course and of dynamics.”

Xavi said he made the decision “several days ago,” and although the hard defeat to Villarreal set the scene for him to announce the decision, he “would have made” it soon enough. He said he hoped this decision will decrease the stress and tension his team is enduring.

“The feeling of being the coach of Barcelona is cruel, it is unpleasant, you feel like you don’t get the respect you deserve,” Xavi said. “It wears you down, affects your mental health, your emotions, up to the point that you say you can’t go on. My loved ones know that.”

Xavi returned to Barcelona as the coach in November 2021 with his only experience a stint in Qatar. He has a contract through the end of next season.

The 44-year-old Xavi led Barcelona to the Spanish Super Cup title and the Spanish league title last season, the club’s first trophies since the exit of Lionel Messi. The club mortgaged its future to help him do that by signing players like Robert Lewandowski.

But Barcelona has struggled this season and has shown severe signs of suffering a collapse this month.

Barcelona saw its best two chances of getting a title in this campaign evaporate recently. Xavi’s side exited the Copa del Rey quarterfinals after losing in extra time at Athletic Bilbao 4-2 on Wednesday, a loss that came two weeks after Barcelona was dismantled by Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup.

After the Villarreal debacle Xavi said his players’ lacked the “maturity” to know how to hold onto leads, and after the Bilbao loss he also underscored that he was playing with several young players. But that seemed at odds with the fact that his starting side was led with veterans like Lewandowski, Ilkay Gundogan and players in their prime like Pedri González and Frenkie de Jong.

Barcelona is set to play Napoli in the Champions League round of 16 next month. Xavi said he was still motivated to lead the team at what is no doubt a long-shot bid at ending his stint with a European Cup.