Opinion

Xavi good for Asia, but Barcelona interest is unfair

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A few years ago when midfielders Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta were pulling the strings as Barcelona dominated European football, nobody would have expected they would end up on the opposite wings of Asia.

All the way over in Japan in the east there is Iniesta, still in fluid action for Vissel Kobe.

And there is Xavi thousands of kilometres to the west coaching Al Sadd, the Qatari powerhouse and he is still there after agreeing to stay on at the club for another year.

"I am happy that the squad is complete today after the return of the remaining first team players, in preparation for this upcoming period and the resumption of the league championship," Xavi told Al-Sadd's official website at the weekend. "I am happy to continue with Al-Sadd, and the team's goal will always be to compete for all titles."

While it was being speculated just a few days ago that Xavi was set to become Barcelona’s head coach this summer, the news that he is staying is as surprising as it is welcome, at least from an Asian football point of view.

It is good to see world famous football names choose to start their coaching careers in Asia for a number of reasons.

A name like Xavi’s brings a star quality to the Qatar league and West Asia in general, a region that does not get that much international attention.

There is interest outside Qatar in how Al Sadd do and how they play that would not otherwise be there.

His presence in Doha can give some other big names inspiration to try their luck outside the tried and tested routes in Europe. The presence of more big stars means more attention and exposure.

And when world famous players come to cut their coaching teeth, they not only bring experience of working at some of the biggest clubs in the world, they bring a knowledge that their coaching careers are likely to follow a certain path.

Xavi has already been approached by Barcelona to become coach this year despite his lack of experience. This is not really fair in many ways but is the way things are.

Ange Postecoglou has already proven himself to be a better coach than Xavi, so far at least, but he is Australian and played for South Melbourne and not a Spaniard who won the World Cup and shone for Barcelona.

If a member of the European elite appoint Xavi as coach, the reaction from fans and media will be largely positive.

The same would not be the case if Postecoglou got a big job despite the Yokohama F. Marinos boss being demonstrably a better option.

Xavi may have had an amazing playing career but being a better player than Postecoglou and almost everyone else does not mean he is a better coach. It is a completely different job.

The former Socceroo boss has shown what he can do in the J.League.

If Postecoglou’s ultimate aim is Europe, and I hope it is because non- European and South American coaches need someone so talented heading to the big leagues, then it is going to be hard work.

It is not impossible as it only takes one open-minded CEO, owner or chairman to provide the opportunity but whatever Postecoglou does in Japan is never going to give him the options that Xavi, due to his career and nationality, already has.

That is not Xavi’s fault. He is going to end up at Barcelona sooner or later and probably sooner. Regardless of what happens, Xavi’s continued presence in Asia should be welcomed.

It is good to have young and hungry coaches coming to Asia. And the more big names that do so will, hopefully, take their knowledge of Asian football back to Europe with them.

When he is eventually in place at the Nou Camp, maybe Xavi will remember a Saudi prospect or Iranian talent who impressed against his team in the AFC Champions League, maybe he will be impressed watching South Korean or Japanese teams in action.

We can only hope that one day we will see Asian bosses at the top of the European game but until then, coaches with Asian experience and knowledge are better than nothing.