It's time to close the book on every Xavi to New York rumor out there.
Earlier today, reports began circulating that the famed Barcelona and Spanish national team midfielder had signed a three-year deal with Qatari club al-Sadd. If he hasn't signed a deal yet — and neither side has confirmed that — then he is, at any rate, on the verge of doing so.
If the club sounds familiar to you, that's because former Real Madrid star Raúl played there before joining the New York Cosmos over the winter. It's the most successful soccer team in Qatar, historically, with a total of 61 championships in its history. In 1989, they became the first Arab club to become champions of Asia; they repeated the feat in 2012, and went on to finish third in the Club World Cup, defeating Kashiwa Reysol of Japan on penalties.
According to AS, the first outlet to report the news, Xavi had seriously considered offers from multiple clubs — including New York City FC — but in the end, the lure of lucre proved too much; his reported deal with al-Sadd is for three years, with the option of a fourth, for €10 million a year.
In addition, Xavi will be studying for his coaching licenses whilst playing in Qatar; the fact that the Aspire Academy is based there probably played a large factor in his decision, and if the reported details of his prospective deal are correct, he'll playing some kind of role at the academy — again, much like Raúl did in his time there.
Now that it looks like Xavi's not coming — what does this mean for New York City?
In the short, medium, and long term: nothing.
Rumors of his arrival in MLS were always flimsy at best, based on sketchy sourcing. Xavi himself, at one point, dismissed them brusquely, saying that all he knew of New York City was that it was cold. Yet, they kept coming, fueled in part by New York City's need for a marquee third designated player. New York City wasn't the only club he was linked to; the New York Red Bulls also came up on occasion, mostly due to their perceived need to replace Thierry Henry, should he retire, which he eventually did.
Head Coach Jason Kreis had, perhaps, the best and most proper reaction to the prospect of Xavi playing for him:
"When you think about a player like Xavi Hernandez, for me one of the best players in the world ever, a big, big fan of his, you say to yourself on one side there's no doubt a player like that would be great at New York City," Kreis said.
"But when you look at it from another point of view and you say you only get three [Designated Players] and we've already got another one that plays in the midfield and you've got a third one in David Villa whose all relative age are getting up there, you start to think maybe not.
"I would say I'm really split, on the fence. I'm a huge fan of Xavi Hernandez, I think he would be a huge player in this league, no doubt about it, huge for New York City, huge for our club, but positionally I don't know it makes the best sense and the most sense, but I'm open for anything."
That middle paragraph, in particular, bears remembering.
David Villa is 33; Frank Lampard, whenever he should arrive, will shortly turn 37. Xavi would be squarely in the middle at age 35. Moreover, there's always been questions as to whether Xavi — regardless of his greatness, which is undeniable — would be able to translate that greatness to Major League Soccer, a league whose style of play is markedly different from that of La Liga. Finally, as a central midfielder, he and Lampard occupy the same positional space; unlike Lampard, Xavi hasn't demonstrated a similar level of positional flexibility.
For all those reasons, I was deeply skeptical of his potential signing by New York City.
Now that he's apparently signed with al-Sadd, the Sky Blues can now turn their attention to other potential targets — like Roma's Daniele De Rossi, who would not only give Kreis a Beckerman-like figure for his midfield, but at 31 would potentially still be in his prime; or Galatasaray's Wesley Sneijder, who's already been linked to New York City, would give Kreis a world-class attacking midfielder, and based off his time in the Turkish Süper Lig, would already be used to the rugged, physical play of MLS.
Either addition would massively upgrade New York City's midfield, which has been troublesome for the team, in different ways. De Rossi would add defensive steel to New York City; Sneijder would be a fantastic attacking addition, and having him, Lampard -- the highest scoring midfielder in Premier League history -- and Villa would instantly make New York City's attack the best in MLS, at least on paper.
Neither, however, would be able to arrive until the summer transfer window opens.