Barcelona manager and legend Xavi has bestowed his blessing on Qatar ahead of the tournament, believing it will be a ‘historic World Cup’.
The former Spain international has deep roots on the peninsula as he joined Al-Sadd as a player in 2015 after 17 trophy-laden years with Spanish giants Barcelona.
“I felt at home in Qatar. I stayed there for six years. I know a lot of people and I think it will be a historic World Cup for the country and for football,” commented the 42-year-old retired superstar.
Amid a break in the international football calendar, Xavi hopes to attend the matches of the Spanish team.
“I’ll try to go a few days to see him live, too, at a Spain game and one from Qatar,” added Xavi.
Winning seven titles with Al-Sadd as coach, Xavi took off from the grounds of Qatar to join Barcelona in 2021 on a three-year contract.
Barca draw in Europa League play-off
Meanwhile, in Europe, two of the best teams in the world will battle it out for a place in the region’s second-tier club competition, with Barcelona set to take on Ten Hag’s Manchester United.
The first legs will take place on February 16, after the World Cup season, and the second legs will start on February 23.
With 16 teams involved: the eight runners-up from the Europa League group stage and the eight third-placed teams from the UEFA Champions League group stage, football fans are excited to catch the draw.
Finishing third behind Bayern Munich and Inter Milan in their Champions League group, Xavi’s Barca will have a demanding schedule after Ten Hag overhauled United’s difficult starting record.
Speaking during the draw at a press conference, Xavi admitted that next year’s Europa League play-off round would be cause for concern.
“It is once again the most difficult opponent. But we will look forward to it. It’s a historic team, they have grown a lot with the arrival of Ten Hag, they have great players,” said Xavi.
“It’s the worst draw we could have had. Once again. No chance.”
UEFA Europa League play-off round draw
Barcelona v Manchester United
Sporting Lisbon v Midtjylland
Shakhtar Donetsk vs Rennes
Ajax v Union Berlin
Bayer Leverkusen v Monaco
Sevilla v PSV Eindhoven
FC Salzburg vs Roma