Barcelona boss Xavi nearly ended up at Man Utd thanks to Pep Guardiola

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Barcelona icon Xavi has revealed that he nearly felt compelled to join Manchester United after being made to feel like an ‘outsider’ at the Nou Camp. The former midfielder went on to become a legend with the Spanish giants but there was a time when he claims to have been made to feel like a ‘bad guy’ after dislodging Pep Guardiola. 

United made an offer for Xavi in the years after he impressed against the Red Devils in the Champions League in 1998/99. The now-Barca head coach revealed that he ‘genuinely’ considered the proposal.

Xavi claimed he was made to feel like a ‘bad guy’ after succeeding club legend Guardiola in midfield. He partially blames former boss – and latterly Man Utd head coach – Louis van Gaal’s handling of the situation. 

However, the offer was ultimately turned down and Xavi went on to become a heroic figure at Barca in his own right. He won eight La Ligas and four Champions Leagues in a glittering career, before being named as the club’s manager in 2021. 

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“There was a long time when I genuinely thought about accepting United’s offer. I needed a change of scenery and things were not going well for me at Barcelona. I have always felt a real attachment to English football and Manchester United would be ‘my club’ there,” Xavi told ESPN.

“For a long chunk of my career, when it looked to people like I was Pep Guardiola’s successor in midfield, I was made to feel, by some, like an outsider, like a bad guy for taking over from the legendary captain.

“We are not good at handling change here. I hated all that debate about ‘me and Pep,’ and Louis van Gaal wasn’t particularly tactful to put an 18-year-old kid through it.

“What eventually made the difference is that I’m as stubborn as a mule: I thought about moving to United, but I dug my heels in. I said to myself ‘I need to prove myself here!’”

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On Thursday, Xavi will take his side to Old Trafford for the second leg of Barca’s Europa League last-16 tie with United. A thrilling first-leg clash in Spain ended 2-2, with both sides unhappy with refereeing decisions. 

Asked if he ‘fears’ going to Old Trafford, Xavi said: “Fear? Fear of what? On the contrary, Old Trafford motivates. It is one of those stadiums where you want to play at least once in your life, where you have to get the best out of yourself.

“We have to be brave, go all out for the game without complexes. It’s like at the Bernabéu, you have to be brave. And to be a great team you have to win at those grounds. And we want to be a great team. That’s how I see it.”

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