Spanish great Xavi to play on until at least end of year

AFP , Sunday 6 May 2018

File Photo: Barcelona's Andres Iniesta, left, and Xavi Hernandez lift the trophy after winning the final of the Copa del Rey (Photo: AP)

Legendary former Barcelona and Spain midfielder Xavi Hernandez has upset his own plans to retire and announced he will extend his career until at least the end of this year, he said on Sunday.

Widely expected to end his illustrious playing career at the end of this season, the World Cup champion and four-times Champions League winner told AFP he feels fit enough to continue playing a little longer.

"I have decided to continue at least six months more," said the 38-year-old, who now plays for Qatari club Al Sadd..

Asked why he was playing on, he replied: "Because it depends on my physical condition. Maybe in December I decide to continue."

The decision is unexpected as Xavi had signalled that the current season would be his last before he focuses on earning his coaching badges.

Xavi, who won 133 caps for Spain, had been expected to take the reins at Al Sadd from next season and has been tipped to be the Qatar coach in 2022 when the Gulf state hosts the World Cup.

He made his debut for Barcelona back in 1998, and went on to make more than 500 appearances for the Catalan giants, winning eight La Liga titles.

Although the league season has ended in Qatar -- Al Sadd finished runners-up -- Xavi is still involved in two cup competitions.

On Monday, Al Sadd play in Doha against Saudi Arabian side Al Ahli in the first leg of the AFC Champions League last 16.

Later this week, Al Sadd will also play in the semi-final of Qatar's biggest domestic cup competition, the Emir Cup.

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