Xavi: Barca expecting ’emotional’ Camp Nou farewell

Barcelona head coach Xavi Hernandez has said it will not be easy to play games away from Spotify Camp Nou next season as the club prepare to say a temporary farewell to their iconic stadium.

Work on revamping the 99,000-seater ground will begin after Sunday’s final home game of the season against Mallorca, with Barca forced to relocate to the 50,000 capacity Olympic Stadium in the Montjuic area of the city until November 2024.

Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, more (U.S.)

Barca wrapped up a first LaLiga title since 2019 earlier this month, but Xavi said moving stadiums will represent a different challenge next year and called on the supporters to back the team more than ever.

“Sunday will be an emotional and sad day because we are saying goodbye to what has been our home for many years,” Xavi said in a news conference on Saturday.

“Camp Nou feels like my home. But it is for a good cause, to have an even better stadium where the fans will feel even better. It’s for a common good.

“My feeling is it won’t be easy in Montjuic. We have to move to a new ground and we will need the fans with us. That atmosphere that’s been generated since I have been in charge, we will need that in Montjuic. The fans need to know that we are going to need them a lot there.”

On the flip side, Xavi hopes the emotion of saying farewell to Camp Nou in its current guise — in addition to the departures of Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets, who will play their final home matches for the club this weekend — will help the team put in a good performance following back-to-back defeats in LaLiga since clinching the title.

“It’s not been easy to find motivation after winning the title, but we have it on Sunday because we want to say goodbye to Camp Nou in the best possible way,” the Barca coach added.

“We want to honour so many years of history, emotion, passion and incredible matches. And it’s also a chance to say farewell to Busquets and Alba. That is all extra motivation for the game.”

Busquets announced earlier this month that he will not renew his contract with the club when it expires in June, while Alba said this week he has also reached an agreement to depart in the summer, despite having a contract until 2024.

Xavi said Barca are well equipped to deal with the loss of Alba at left-back, but called on the club to invest in a replacement in Busquets.

“If we want to compete well next season, it’s essential to have his role in the team filled,” he said. “For me, as a coach, that position is fundamental.

“Busquets has been vital in what we have achieved this year, winning the Super Cup and LaLiga. So, we are going to have to find a really important player to replace him, both on and off the pitch. For me, that is the key to next season.”

Busquets and Alba become the latest members of Barca’s golden generation to leave. Gerard Pique retired last November, and Dani Alves, after a brief second spell back at the club, left last summer following the exits in recent years of Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and Xavi himself, among others.

Xavi, who left in 2015 before returning as the coach in 2021, said the hardest part of his job has been how to handle those pre-existing relationships.

“One of the most difficult things has been managing friendships and having to tell them they are not playing,” he said of the generational chance which has been carried out at Barca in the last few years.

“At the end of the day, I am the Barcelona coach and I have to make these decisions, but that doesn’t mean they are not painful. It happened with Davi Alves, Pique… [but] I have to prioritise the club and be professional.

“They are not personal decisions, they are football decisions. Now it is Jordi and Busi, who actually made these decisions themselves, but we will miss them. They have been captains and references for their teammates.”