Football Focus: ‘Messi needs Barca and Barca needs Messi’

Former Barcelona great Xavi Hernandez has ruled out coaching the club in the near term, citing institutional problems as a reason to bide his time and remain in his role with Qatar’s Al Sadd.

Xavi rejected the offer to coach his former club back in January when they sacked Ernesto Valverde, and even though current manager Quique Setien’s role is far from secure the Catalan is still unwilling to return for the time being.

The former Spain player alluded to some of the problems president Josep Maria Bartomeu has faced, including a scandal involving the hiring of a social media monitoring firm and fallout from a pay-cut the club introduced in April.

“There’s a lot of external noise around the club, a lot of issues off the pitch and I don’t think now is the right time,” Xavi told the magazine Icon.

“In January I told them it wasn’t the right time and they haven’t contacted me since.

“I’m delighted to continue to gain experience and challenge myself and of course it’ll be a privilege for me to one day coach Barca.”

Xavi also urged Barca to hand a new contract to Lionel Messi, whose current deal expires next year, amid reports the Argentine is disillusioned with Bartomeu’s leadership.

“He has earned it, he should have an automatic clause,” Xavi said of the club’s all-time top scorer.

“Messi needs Barca and Barca need Messi.

“They have to make him happy, because a happy Messi will win more trophies. He has done what Pele, Cruyff, Maradona and Ronaldo all did but over a period of 15 years and in the modern era.

“He is at an incredible level physically, tactically and technically and continues to be the best player in every game.”

Odisha FC ropes in Steven Dias as assistant coach ahead of ISL 7

Odisha FC has signed former India international Steven Dias as the new assistant coach of the team ahead of the seventh season of the Indian Super League.

The 36-year-old former attacking mid-fielder has joined Odisha FC on a one-year deal, the club said in a statement.

After drawing curtains on his playing career with the national team and many reputed clubs like Air India, Mahindra United, Churchill Brothers, Delhi Dynamos, and Mumbai FC, Dias had joined Jamshedpur FC as its assistant coach last year.

Besides, Odisha FC has also brought back Spanish strength and conditioning coach Joan Casanova for the upcoming season.

“Steven has a successful playing career and the players look up to him. He will be a valuable asset for us while he develops as a coach,” Odisha FC head coach Stuart Baxter said.

“Joan gives us continuity and the players are comfortable with him and we are on the same page concerning football conditioning and recuperation,” he added.


Dias too was delighted with his new assignment.

“The club’s forward-thinking vision of developing young Indian talent was a major factor in determining my decision to become a part of the project,” he said.

On his return to Odisha FC and Indian football, Casanova said, “I am happy to be back at Odisha FC and work in the ISL. Last season we had so many challenges.”

“We hope in the upcoming season, we can compete as good as the last one and get inside the playoffs which is the goal for the club.”

Real, Liverpool exits don’t help Manchester City, says Silva

Manchester City’s task in the Champions League has not been made any easier by the exits of Real Madrid and Liverpool as every team playing in the mini-tournament in Lisbon is capable of winning, midfielder Bernardo Silva has said.

Pep Guardiola’s City eliminated Real in the last 16 while defending champions Liverpool were knocked out by Atletico Madrid.

City are firm favourites heading into Saturday’s quarter-final against Olympique Lyonnais but Silva said they would not get complacent.

“Anything can happen, Juventus were knocked out by Lyon, we lost against Tottenham Hotspur last year in the quarter-finals,” Silva told the City website.

“We have seen lots of surprises. It’s very difficult to predict the results in this competition.”

“The fact that Liverpool are out, Real Madrid are out: it’s not going to make our path easier … All the teams in Lisbon are here because they deserve it. We need to be at our best level to win the games and try to reach the final.”

Silva, who was born in Lisbon and began his career at Benfica, said the prospect of lifting the trophy on home soil gave him extra motivation.

“Winning this competition has always been a target for the players and the club. It will be very special to win it. For me, even more so because it’s my city,” he added.

Matthijs de Ligt sidelined for three months after shoulder surgery

Juventus on Wednesday said that Matthijs de Ligt underwent successful shoulder surgery and will be out of action for ‘approximately three months’.

“This morning, Matthijs de Ligt underwent stabilisation surgery on his right shoulder, at the UPMC Salvator Mundi clinic in Rome,” the club said in a statement.

“The operation, performed by Dr Volker Musahl, assisted by doctors, Bryson Lesniak and Fabrizio Margheritini and in the presence of Juventus’ Head of Medical Department, Luca Stefanini, was a complete success. The estimated recovery time is approximately three months,” it added.

As the Serie A 2020-2021 season is set to commence on September 19, the update on De Ligt means he will be sidelined for the early games of the domestic campaign.

Blaise Matuidi leaves Juventus after three seasons with club

Juventus on Wednesday confirmed the departure of Blaise Matuidi, who leaves after three seasons with the club.

“After three years and five titles won (three Scudetti, one Coppa Italia and one Italian Super Cup), Blaise Matuidi and Juventus say goodbye with the consensual termination of the player’s contract,” the club said in a statement.

Matuidi had joined the club from Paris Saint-Germain back in 2017.

Following the departure, the player took to Twitter and wrote, “Have been a member of the family @juventusfc is a dream come true, an honour. I discovered an incredible institution, teammates who have become more than that. I will always remain your number 1 fan, or rather number 14 Thank you, really.”

Matuidi played 98 games in Serie A and since his arrival at Juventus, and except for Paulo Dybala (134), no player has made more appearances across all competitions than him, turning out 133 times for the Bianconeri.

“Blaise is someone who will always be in our hearts and we wish him all the very best for the future,” the club’s statement added.

Alexis Sanchez suffers hamstring injury ahead of Europa League semi-final

Inter Milan on Wednesday confirmed that Alexis Sanchez has suffered a strain in his right hamstring which put player’s participation in the Europa League semi-final in doubt.

Sanchez sustained the injury on Tuesday during Inter Milan’s 2-1 win over Bayer Leverkusen in Europa League quarter-final.

“Alexis Sanchez underwent medical tests this morning in Duisburg after suffering an injury during our match against Bayer Leverkusen,” the club said in a statement.

“The tests confirmed that he has suffered a strain in his right hamstring. His condition will continue to be reassessed over the next few days,” the statement added.

Inter Milan will face Shakhtar Donetsk in the Europa League semi-final, on August 18.

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