New Barcelona coach Luis Enrique says he wants the squad to vote on their captain for next season, as speculation continues that Xavi Hernandez could be set for the United Arab Emirates or the U.S.
Barcelona have four club captains, who are traditionally the four longest-serving players in the squad. With last season’s “first” captain Carles Puyol leaving, Xavi — who is now 34 and still has two years left on his current contract — was expected to step up, with Andres Iniesta becoming vice-captain, and Lionel Messi also assuming a captaincy role.
The exit of long-serving goalkeeper Victor Valdes leaves another place to be filled — with Pedro Rodriguez, Sergio Busquets, Gerard Pique and Dani Alves those next in line.
However, the new Blaugrana coach told Barca TV, according to AS, that he preferred his captain not to be necessarily the longest-serving player, but the best leader as chosen by their teammates.
“A captain is not whoever lifts the cup or shakes hands with the referee, it is much more,” Luis Enrique said. “The captains should be the reference points for the players, they should be voted for and that’s it. I know the personalities of the Barca players and those who can be captains.
“We will have fluid communication. I do not want captains who are the most handsome, the most veteran, the nicest guys or those who sign the most autographs. I am aware of how it is at Barca. I know the personality of those who can be Barca captains, who are more than ready. They are great protagonists and should feel they like it here. We are working on that.”
At his presentation on Tuesday, Enrique also suggested that Xavi’s future at the club was not assured, saying the former teammates would soon sit down and discuss what best suited all parties.
AS claims that Abu Dhabi club Al Jazira — which is owned by Manchester City chief Sheik Mansour — are interested in signing the playmaker this summer. This could then be a season-long stepping stone before moving on to the New York City franchise, which City are also involved in, and which is due to begin playing in the 2015-16 MLS season.
Meanwhile, Blaugrana left-back Jordi Alba has said that he believes Xavi remains in Luis Enrique’s plans for next season.
Alba told Marca that the long-serving midfielder remained widely respected by everyone around the Camp Nou — including the new coach.
“Xavi Hernandez has the respect of everyone, from Luis Enrique to the fans of the club,” he said. Xavi deserves all respect and I believe that Luis Enrique sees in him an important player.”