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May 22, 2013

Xavi: Facing Jose was extra motivation

Barcelona midfielder Xavi Hernandez says Barcelona were always had "extra motivation" when playing against Real Madrid during Jose Mourinho's tempestuous three years at the Bernabeu.

• Papers say farewell to Jose
• Madrid socio targets presidency
• Blog: Carlo, Rafa or Laudrup?
• Hunter: Jose's act wore thin

Mourinho, nicknamed "the translator" among Barca fans having taken up that role at Camp Nou before his managerial career took off, often spoke out against the Catalans during his reign - infamously claiming the club were favoured by the football authorities after they knocked his side out of the Champions League in 2011.

Speaking with reporters at an event to promote August's Copa Intercontinental de Fútbol 7 for people who have suffered brain injuries, Xavi suggested that while Madrid had won a few battles during Mourinho's time in charge, a pumped-up Barca had eventually won the war against "the Special One".

"He is a controversial coach," Xavi said. "There has always been an extra motivation. I do not know if we will miss him or not [but] an important coach is leaving. In the three years he has been here they have taken a few trophies from us, but we have kept winning. Madrid will be competitive with or without him, we must just focus on ourselves."

Xavi also became the latest Barca figure - following Leo Messi, Pedro Rodriguez and others - to hail the club's transfer target Neymar as a great player who would fit in well at Camp Nou.

"Neymar is a great player and is on the way to being of the world's best," he said. "Everything is just guesswork at the moment, but he is a great player and of course he would adapt."

Meanwhile, Mourinho's sending off during last week's Copa del Rey final could mean the Portuguese coach is banned for Chelsea's next two FA Cup games should he take the Stamford Bridge reins as expected.

Outgoing Real Madrid boss Mourinho was sent to the stands for arguing with referee Carlos Clos Gomez during last Friday's final at the Bernabeu, which in his absence Atletico Madrid surprisingly won 2-1 in extra-time.

The Spanish authorities have handed down a two-game suspension for the offence, which AS have reported only applies to cup competitions. This leaves Mourinho free to take control for Madrid's final two La Liga games - at Real Sociedad on Sunday, and at home to Osasuna the following weekend - before he departs the Bernabeu, as agreed with president Florentino Perez on Monday.

Given suspensions picked up in one country are typically respected in another - for example Joey Barton at Marseille this season - Mourinho could now be banned for two cup games at his next club, which many assume will be his former side Chelsea. With the Copa overseen by the Spanish FA (RFEF), not the league (LFP), the suspension would then apply in the English FA Cup, not the Capital One (League) Cup.

Cristiano Ronaldo, also red carded during the Copa final defeat for aiming a flailing leg at Atletico captain Gabi's head, has also been banned for two matches, which he is expected to serve in next season's Copa del Rey.

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