KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS: Top Qatari club Al Sadd are ready to play hardball with Barcelona over Xavi Hernandez.

Al Sadd responded to speculation that crisis-hit Barcelona want former playmaker Xavi to replace sacked coach Ronald Koeman by insisting that “he has a two-year contract with the club and his priorities are the next matches of the team to maintain the first place of the league and of the title.”

Dutchman Koeman was sacked by Barcelona on Wednesday after successive LaLiga defeats to home to Real Madrid and away to Rayo Vallecano.

Xavi was linked with Barcelona 18 months ago but apparently now believes the time is right for a return to Camp Nou.

He said: “I feel ready to coach any team in the world. When I was offered Barça in January 2020 it had been barely three months since I was a coach. Now it’s different. I have more experience, I learned a lot here.”

Xavi ended his playing career at Al Sadd club from 2015 to 2019 then took over as coach.

Sergi Barjuan, Barcelona’s reserve team coach, has stepped up as caretaker.