Barcelona manager Xavi Hernandez has told the media that his team is focused on their season despite the swirling referee scandal around the club.
The Catalan giants have been in the middle of a corruption case filed by Spanish prosecutors over alleged bribes to referees from 2001 until 2018. The payments were made to a firm run by the former vice chief of Spanish referees, José Maria Enriquez Negreira.
In the time under review, it is alleged that Negreira helped Barcelona with referees who favoured them in the league and cup, and also provided intel on foreign referees for continental competitions. The club is still debunking those claims with statements that the payments were for technical purposes, which all clubs undertake in order to understand the referees who will be officiating over their matches.
Many possible sanctions on the club should they be found guilty have been discussed in the media, including the stripping of all titles won in that time and a possible expulsion of the club from the first tier of Spanish and European football.
Xavi, speaking at a press conference before El Clasico on Sunday, was inundated with these questions. The former Al-Sadd manager was a key part of Barcelona’s team in that time up until 2015, and also wore the armband as captain in that time.
Now the manager of his boyhood club, the 43-year-old stated that the case does not derail his team’s goals, while also hinting that the club’s upper management led by Joan Laporta will handle the case and clear the club’s name.
“They will not destabilise us. We are more stable than ever. And they have been trying [to destabilise us] now since day one,” Xavi responded. “We are completely focused on winning on Sunday and making a big statement in the title race. We are not thinking about anything else.”
Xavi also commented on the idea that a victory against the club’s archrivals will see them officially wrap up the 2022/23 league title. “It won’t be definitive if we win, but it would represent a real step forward,” Xavi said. I am really up for it. “It’s my first Clasico at Camp Nou [as coach] and I love these games.”
Then he commented on the possibility of a 12th 1-0 against Madrid Madridon Sunday.
The club have seen 11 games end in that scoreline but it has been effective in helping them hold on to the top spot, as they have only conceded eight times in all competitions so far.
Three of those goals came in the reverse El Clasico, meaning they have only conceded in six games since the start of the league season.
Xavi says he will be happy with another 1-0 win. “What is it with this [focus] on the 1-0?” he said after a question about those results. “If I could choose, I prefer a 4-0 or a 5-4, but it’s hard to score goals.
“Those that have not played football at an elite level can’t understand what it’s like to have an opponent in front of you, especially Madrid, the Champions League holders. To beat them 1-0 is a fantastic result.”