‘Irreplaceable’ Xavi quits Barca and heads to Qatar

Barcelona midfielder and captain Xavi confirmed on Thursday he will leave the club at the end of the season and has agreed to join Qatari side Al Sadd.

Xavi, 35, who signed up with Barca’s academy in 1991 at the age of 11 and has won 23 trophies during 17 seasons in the first team, made the announcement at a news conference. “It’s a definitive decision, it’s not an easy one, it’s the right moment to go,” Xavi, Barcelona’s appearance record holder, told reporters.

“I still feel useful here but a change of scene is necessary, my head tells me so but not my heart,” he said, adding that his aim was to return to Barca after completing his coaching qualifications.

Xavi will receive an emotional send-off in Barcelona’s final La Liga game of the campaign at home to Deportivo La Coruna on Saturday, when he will hoist aloft the La Liga trophy after the match.

Last weekend Barca wrapped up the title, Xavi’s eighth, and he can win two more trophies in the King’s Cup final against Athletic Bilbao on May 30 and the Champions League showpiece versus Juventus a week later.

Xavi Factbox:
* Born Xavi Hernandez Creus on January 25, 1980 in Terrassa.

* Joins Barca’s academy in July 1991. Scores on his first-team debut seven years later in a Spanish Super Cup match against Real Mallorca.

* Makes first appearance for Spain in a friendly against the Netherlands in November 2000.

* Suffers a cruciate knee ligament injury in Barca training in December 2005 that sidelines him for five months.

* Returns to action the following April but has to watch from the bench as Barca beat Arsenal 2-1 in Paristo win the 2006 Champions League.

* Voted player of the tournament as Spain end 44 years without a major trophy at Euro 2008. Xavi sendsFernando Torres through to score the winner against Germany in the final.

* With Pep Guardiola in his first season in charge in 2008-09, Xavi helps Barca win an unprecedented treble of Champions League, La Liga and King’s Cup titles.

* Xavi’s floated cross is headed in by Lionel Messi to make it 2-0 against Manchester United in the Champions League final in Rome.

* Barca go on to win the Spanish and European Super Cups and the Club World Cup for a full house of six trophies in 2009.

* Xavi finishes third in the 2009 Fifa Ballon d’Or, the first of three straight third-place finishes.

* Helps Spain to their debut World Cup triumph in July 2010 in South Africa.

* In January 2011, equals Migueli’s Barca appearance record of 549 official matches.

* Makes superb assist for Pedro to open the scoring as Barca beat United 3-1 in London to win the 2011 Champions League.

* Spain defend their continental title at Euro 2012 and Xavi sets up two goals in the final, including another for Torres, as La Roja thrash Italy 4-0.

* Spain are eliminated from the 2014 World Cup in Brazil after losing their opening two games and Xavi announces his international retirement after 133 appearances, a record for an outfield player.

* Barca last weekend wrap up their seventh La Liga title in 11 years, and Xavi’s eighth, and he announces he is leaving at the end of the season to join Al Sadd.

* Xavi won 23 titles with Barca: eight in La Liga, three in the Champions League, two King’s Cups, two European Super Cups, six Spanish Super Cups and two Club World Cups.

He has a chance for two more in the King’s Cup final against Athletic Bilbao on May 30 and the Champions League final against Juventus a week later.

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