Xavi Hernandenz is once again rumoured to be on the verge of exiting Barcelona, according to Spanish press.
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.
Is it the right time for Xavi to leave Barcelona?
This rumour follows on from Xavi being linked to Manchester City, among other Premier League sides, per Paul Hetherington of the Daily Star. The 34-year-old's game time was slightly reduced last season under Gerardo Martino, but with Luis Enrique now in charge, his role is yet to be determined.
Xavi made just 26 La Liga starts during the 2013-14 campaign, per WhoScored.com. With the fresher legs of Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas and Sergio Busquets to compete against, it's understandable why the legendary midfielder isn't as pivotal to Barcelona's output as he once was.
Jordi Alba believes Xavi has a bright future at the club: "Xavi Hernandez has the respect of everyone, from Luis Enrique to the fans of the club," said Alba, reported by Marca and via Corrigan. "Xavi deserves all respect and I believe that Luis Enrique sees in him an important player."
Despite dwindling playing time, Xavi remains a key leader in the Blaugrana squad. This is a player, after all, who has won every trophy possible for both club and country. With Carles Puyol and Victor Valdes stepping away from the Camp Nou, Xavi's importance is likely to galvanise across the coming weeks.
He is undoubtedly a candidate for the club's main captaincy. Although Barcelona often utilise a quartet of club captains, Puyol has taken on the main role during matches and throughout interactions with the media. Barcelona traditionally let the longest-serving player complete these responsibilities, something Xavi now qualifies for.
However, Enrique has suggested he wants the squad to determine their main leader, per Corrigan:
A captain is not whoever lifts the cup or shakes hands with the referee, it is much more. 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.
Is Luis Enrique right to let Barcelona players vote for the next captain?
Enrique confirmed he isn't looking for "captains who are the most handsome, the most veteran, the nicest guys or those who sign the most autographs," noted by Corrigan. He is looking for a leader on the pitch, which doesn't always link in with the longest-serving candidate.
Xavi possesses the experience, temperament and footballing brain to help usher Barcelona's new era in. He is one of world football's greatest readers of the game, someone who consistently analyses the match whether in possession or not, and is more than capable of helping younger squad members develop. His low-key attitude off the pitch may even help Barca after a year of high-profile failings.
Enrique's decision to usher in player power is commendable and assures there will be no hard feelings within the squad. A former Barcelona captain himself, the new boss understands exactly what is needed to lead such an elite side toward a successful future laden with trophies.