Spanish soccer: Xavi to replace injured Andres Iniesta for Barcelona matches

BARCELONA, Spain — Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said he will be coached by midfielder Xavi Hernandez in the coming matches in La Liga because of injuries to Andres Iniesta and Philippe Coutinho. Xavi was…

Spanish soccer: Xavi to replace injured Andres Iniesta for Barcelona matches

BARCELONA, Spain — Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said he will be coached by midfielder Xavi Hernandez in the coming matches in La Liga because of injuries to Andres Iniesta and Philippe Coutinho.

Xavi was more than happy to accept the challenge of being first among equals on the bench and taking his place alongside Barcelona great Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Luis Suarez and new arrival Frenkie de Jong of the Netherlands.

“I’m more comfortable in that role than in those of a coach. I’m more comfortable with the ball than with the whistle,” Xavi said on Monday, sporting a sweater as large as his six-foot-four frame.

Xavi, who made his debut for Barcelona in 1998, is the last of the core of the club’s glorious treble of La Liga, the Copa del Rey and the Champions League team which the club won in 2009 under Pep Guardiola. He wore the captain’s armband that year, when it was standing room only at the Camp Nou for a 3-1 win over Manchester United.

Xavi said he would never decide whether to take the captain’s armband once he hangs up his boots but hinted he would.

“If you saw me when I was 14, you’d see the captain of Barcelona now. I have the same mentality,” he said, voicing a common complaint about the Barcelona captaincy.

Many players only take the captain’s armband when their team are through to the last 16 of the Champions League.

“When we go into the semi-finals of the Champions League, we’ll be taking the captain’s armband, but that doesn’t mean you necessarily became the leader. It doesn’t mean that I’ll have to do all the press-ups,” he said.

“People don’t understand how tough football is. If I had to do it over again and I was coaching them, I’d take Luis Suarez because he comes off the bench and is so useful and he has so much talent.”

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