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Barcelona 'make final decision on Xavi replacement'

Barcelona 'make final decision on Xavi replacement'
© Reuters
Barcelona reportedly choose current youth team manager Rafael Marquez to take over from Xavi as first-team manager next season.

La Liga champions Barcelona have reportedly decided who will be the man to lead the first team next season once Xavi has vacated his post.

Immediately after a 5-3 loss to Villarreal in the top flight in January, Xavi left reporters stunned by announcing his end-of-campaign resignation in his post-match press conference.

The former Barcelona midfielder has since overseen a stellar run of form since revealing his desire to leave, though, and Camp Nou chiefs have left the door open for the head coach to make a U-turn.

Xavi is often forced to bat away repeated questions about whether he could change his mind, but the Spaniard has always issued the same response, insisting that he will step down no matter what this summer.

The situation was no different after Barcelona's 4-1 Champions League quarter-final second-leg defeat to Paris Saint-Germain, which was the club's first loss since Xavi's exit announcement and eliminated them from the competition.

Several candidates have been tipped to take over from Xavi this summer, when a few high-profile managers will be moving on, and the Blaugrana are now said to have come to a final decision.

Rafael Marquez in action for Barcelona on February 20, 2010© Reuters

Barcelona choose Rafael Marquez to replace Xavi

According to Sport, the reigning Spanish champions will be led by former centre-back and current Barca Atletic coach Rafael Marquez, who had put himself forward for the job when Xavi first revealed his intention to depart.

President Joan Laporta confirmed in February that the Mexican was under consideration to take over as head coach, although sporting director Deco then claimed that he would only be an "emergency" solution.

However, the Blaugrana chiefs are apparently keen on the idea of hiring a candidate who knows the ins and outs of the club, as Marquez won 11 trophies during a seven-year spell at Barcelona from 2003 to 2010.

The 45-year-old then hung up his boots in his homeland in 2018 and took over as Barca Atletic head coach in 2022, winning 34 of his 72 games in charge of the juvenile team so far.

Marquez's deal only runs until the summer, but his experience managing youth players is also an attractive quality to Barcelona, who have seen Lamine Yamal, Pau Cubarsi and Hector Fort make their first-team breakthroughs this season.

Could Barcelona's Marquez decision benefit Liverpool?

Sporting Lisbon head coach Ruben Amorim pictured on April 6, 2024© Reuters

Barcelona have conceded defeats in their pursuits of a handful of targets to hire Marquez, namely Bayer Leverkusen's Xabi Alonso and Germany's Julian Nagelsmann, both of whom are staying put with their current teams.

Links with Hansi Flick, Mikel Arteta, Roberto De Zerbi, Thomas Tuchel and former head coach Luis Enrique also led to nowhere, but the Blaugrana were also thought to have earmarked Sporting Lisbon's Ruben Amorim as a top target.

However, with Marquez set to take the reins, Premier League title-chasers Liverpool - who are bidding farewell to Jurgen Klopp this summer - could now have a free run at Amorim's signature this summer.

The Reds are rumoured to have made him their number one target ever since Alonso confirmed his decision to remain with Leverkusen, although talk of a three-year agreement being reached is thought to be premature.

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