Barca too hasty to dispense with Xavi
If Xavi Hernandez is close to walking away from the last two years of his contract at Barcelona, as is being reported, we are witnessing the dismantling of one of the greatest sides to have ever played the game.
Xavi, more than anyone, has been synonymous with the passing style that helped his side reach the heights of three Champions League titles in six seasons between 2006 and 2011 and four La Liga titles between 2009 and 2013.
During a World Cup that sees his Spanish side in a predicament, Xavi's waning powers have been debated fervently at both national and club level, but the midfield maestro seeing out his contract would surely be a plus for Barcelona at a time of much change at the club. He has been linked with a move to Qatari club Al Arabi, whose coach, Dan Petrescu, claims the player has signed a pre-contract.
Meanwhile, Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu and sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta met with Xavi's agent Ivan Corretja on Tuesday, and the decision is said to be in the hands of the player. A move into the shadows in an inferior league would be the obvious move for the unassuming Xavi, who has spent all his career in the spotlight at his hometown club. However, he could still offer something to Luis Enrique as he attempts to respond to last season's failure to win a trophy for the first time in six years.
A world-class midfielder can always be put to use. Xavi was nowhere near the main problem last season at a club in turmoil but Enrique wants to impose a new style at Barca, and that would make it difficult for the player to still fit in.
With the confirmation that Croatian midfielder Ivan Rakitic has joined from Sevilla as a replacement for Cesc Fabregas, it is obvious Enrique wants to inject some energy and a more direct approach to Barca's game.
Gonzalo Higuain has also been linked with a move to the Nou Camp , and there is a sense that a revolution is being planned at the top. You can appreciate why Xavi may want to enjoy a lucrative semi-retirement in the Middle East. The nagging doubt remains, though -- Xavi still has a part to play in the new Barca. With Victor Valdes, Carles Puyol and Fabregas all departing, the old guard is changing, but stalwarts are difficult to replace. In his case, he could help smooth the transition if he stayed.
Perhaps one of the most controversial decisions made by the club in recent years was selling his natural replacement in Thiago Alcantara to Bayern Munich last summer, a decision that was never fully explained. Ultimately, though, football is a brutal business, and if Enrique is looking to radically change Barca's style then perhaps the time has come to say goodbye to one of football's true greats.
Xavi is the epitome of the old-school type of player whom Pep Guardiola once claimed was a lover of picking mushrooms in his spare time. So while he would have a number of offers to continue at the highest level, it would be fitting for him to leave the European game a one-club man.
If he does depart, let us hope it is not with a whimper at this World Cup. Starting on Wednesday, let's see if the Xavi of old can put some life into Spain's bid to continue as world champions.
He may not be used in all their remaining games, but he has a part to play in Spain's destiny at this World Cup. It appears as though his time on the grand stage is drawing to an end.