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Barcelona chief calls for unity after Xavi quits as coach

Barcelona president Joan Laporta called for unity on Sunday and said the players will need the support of the fans more than ever after head coach Xavi Hernández revealed he will step down at the end of the season.

Xavi, 44, made the surprise announcement after Saturday’s 5-3 defeat at home to Villarreal, which left Barça 10 points behind LaLiga leaders Real Madrid.

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It also came on the back of a 4-1 loss to Madrid in the Spanish Supercopa final this month and a 4-2 defeat against Athletic Club in the Copa del Rey quarterfinal in midweek, results which had increased the pressure on the Barça boss.

“I am looking forward to turning around the situation, which is not pleasant for anyone, but what is needed now is unity,” Laporta told the club’s official media channels on Sunday.

“It’s true things aren’t going as we had planned this season. We won LaLiga and the Supercopa last year and, with an improved squad, had bigger expectations for the campaign. But we have not fulfilled those expectations and we must turn the situation around.

“We are grateful for the commitment the fans have shown the team and the club during this period. We are going to need that moving forward, starting with the home game against Osasuna on Wednesday.

“I am sure they understand the situation, the difficulties [the club are having], but the players need them and the role of the fans is going to be fundamental between now and the end of the season.”

Saturday’s loss to Villarreal was the first time Barça have conceded five goals in a home LaLiga match since January 1963, when they were beaten 5-1 by Madrid. It’s also the first time since 1951 that they have given up four goals or more in consecutive games.

Laporta and his board of directors met with Xavi immediately after the match at the Olympic Stadium to discuss the coach’s future, with Xavi later explaining his decision in a news conference.

“Xavi wanted to go at the end of the season and it’s a formula I was willing to accept because it was his proposal,” Laporta added.

“He is a club legend, an honest, dignified person and someone who loves Barça. Xavi and his staff’s commitment is and will be 100% until the end of the season.”

After exiting the Supercopa and the Copa this month, Barça’s hopes of silverware now depend solely on LaLiga and the Champions League.

They remain third in the league, behind Madrid and Girona, and have qualified for the Champions League round of 16, where they are set to face Napoli over two legs in February and March.

“LaLiga is going to be tough, but it’s still not lost,” Laporta said. “We have to fight to finish as high as possible. We have to give everything we have to win the Champions League as well.

“We are going to go step by step, with commitment and even more character without losing concentration. With a coach giving everything and the players committed, we can achieve one of the objectives we have by end of season.”

Xavi took over from Ronald Koeman in 2021 and steered Barça from ninth in LaLiga to a second-place finish and Champions League qualification.

Last season, his first full campaign in charge of the club, he led the team to their first LaLiga title since 2019 and also won the Spanish Supercopa.

In total, Xavi has taken charge of 122 games in all competitions, winning 75, drawing 21 and losing 26.

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