Xavi denies rumours of Barcelona firing Loop Jamaica

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Xavi Hernández on Saturday denied a slew of reports in Spanish media outlets that Barcelona’s leadership is considering firing the coach for having said that the club’s poor finances will impede it from competing with Real Madrid.

“The club has transmitted to me that I should stay calm and continue working with the same motivation and commitment. Nothing has changed,” Xavi said at a pregame news conference.

Almost all the questions he faced were about the speculation in Spain’s sports press that club president Joan Laporta was upset with Xavi for having said earlier this week that “the situation is very difficult, above all on the economic level, for us to compete with our top rivals, whether it be Real Madrid or teams in Europe.”

The media reports said Laporta is pondering a replacement for Xavi this summer.

Xavi insisted Saturday that he had heard no such thing from the club.

“I don’t know and I don’t care where that information is coming from. I have the support of the president and Deco, our sports director,” the former Barcelona midfielder said.

Neither Laporta nor the club have made any public statements about the rumours. The club said it had no comment on them when asked by The Associated Press.

Even if Barcelona keeps Xavi on, it is still an awkward situation for a coach who just three weeks prior had reversed a previous decision made in January to leave the club this summer. In April, Xavi said that he had changed his mind after his players showed him that they believed in the team’s potential and had improved their performances.

Laporta inherited a club mired in debts of more than 1.3 billion euros ($1.4 billion), and football’s most expensive payroll, when he returned to run the club for a second time in 2021.

A few months later he brought back fan favourite Xavi, who had been coaching in Qatar, to lead a team rebuild following the exit of superstar Lionel Messi.

But with no cash on hand and mounting debts, Laporta had to sell off future television revenues and other club assets, which Laporta dubbed financial “levers,” to sign Robert Lewandowski and other players two seasons ago.

With those reinforcements, Xavi guided Barcelona to the Spanish league title last campaign. But Barcelona has struggled this season and will finish it without any titles.

Xavi’s words earlier this week seemed aimed at curbing the expectations of fans used to the club making significant signings in the summer.

The club’s wages still exceed the salary cap established by the Spanish league and it is more likely to sell players this off-season than bring in new talent.

Barcelona play Rayo Vallecano on Sunday seeking a win to lock up a second-placed finish in the domestic league and secure a spot in the Spanish Super Cup.