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Deco discusses Xavi contract extension and Messi return at unveiling as Barcelona sporting director

Former Portugal star Deco also addressed Barça’s Champions League ambitions, Vitor Roque’s transfer and Lamine Yamal’s breakthrough at the LaLiga giants.

Deco durante su presentación como director deportivo del Barcelona junto a Joan Laporta.
Enric FontcubertaEFE

Former Barcelona midfielder Deco has been official unveiled as the LaLiga champions’ new sporting director, replacing the departed Jordi Cruyff and Mateu Alemany. Att his unveiling in his new post, the Brazilian-born ex-Portugal international immediately sought to put an end to rumours of a potential conflict with the club over head coach Xavi Hernández, a former teammate of his.

Does Deco want Xavi Hernández as Barcelona head coach?

“Coming back to Barcelona always gives me goosebumps. Being back here is a huge responsibility. I know the responsibility I have, but it’s something that excites me. Before coming back here I spoke many times with the president. Sometimes he listened to me; other times he didn’t... But I was always in agreement that Xavi should be here”.

“I told the president that Xavi, because of the type of person he is, would give us the time we need to build a great team. Xavi was brave enough to take charge of the club at a time of uncertainty and doubt. Now we have a competitive, balanced squad. A lot of investment was made last year and we’ve tried to balance the books this year. We have managed to get back to where we deserve to be again”.

Deco at his unveiling as Barcelona's new sporting director.
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Deco at his unveiling as Barcelona's new sporting director. Enric FontcubertaEFE

After his initial speech, Deco then took part in a question and answer session with members of the media, discussing Barça’s transition phase, their objectives for the season, especially in the Champions League, Yamine Lamal’s breakthrough and a potential return for Lionel Messi.

What are Barcelona’s objectives for the 2023-24 season?

What is your first objective?

“Barça is all about winning. Nothing else matters at this club, nothing. That’s why we have tried to find better balance with the roster”.

How do you think soccer should be played?

“If I didn’t think about Barça, I wouldn’t have had dreams of playing here since I was a child. Everyone knows the club’s philosophy is to win and play well. The philosophy is winning. When I watch a game, I like to see a team that has quality. We have been in a transition phase. Barcelona’s best years came in the era of Messi, Piqué, Xavi, Jordi (Alba), Busquets... At club level, transitions are difficult, and if you don’t do them well, it is difficult for you to recover. Those eras don’t last forever. And I don’t think the transition was managed that well. But I think we are on the right path now”.

Was Mateu Alemany given the chance to of continue in his role? Who will be in charge of Financial Fair Play issues now?

“I know you all like to focus on individuals and who’s doing what. Within the club, there is a financial structure. Mateu has been in charge of Financial Fair Play, but we still have work to do because we are still working outwith the regulations. Mateu has done his job, he’s made his decision about his future and I don’t see any issues”.

Will Xavi sign a contract extension at Barça?

Would you like Xavi to sign a long contract extension?

“Xavi knows how to coach and I know how to manage. That’s why we are in different positions. Xavi deserves to stay longer, he’s earned it. We don’t think he has to extend his deal because he is a club legend. He has to stay longer and he has earned it. He is going to extend it because he has earned it. When Xavi signs an extension, you will know how long it’s for. As the president and (sporting vice-president) Rafa Yuste said, we are happy with him and, as I have already said, he has earned his contract extension”.

Xavi returned to Barcelona as head coach in November 2021.
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Xavi returned to Barcelona as head coach in November 2021. PATRICK T. FALLONAFP

Could João Félix and João Cancelo sign for Barça permanently?

“They both signed almost at the last minute. They are players who will help us balance the squad. We know the ability they have, but they have to show it here. During the season, we will assess what they’ve done. We know they have made a big effort to come here. And the most important thing is that Barça continues to be an attractive club for players”.

How important is women’s football going to be for the club?

“That’s not up to me, it’s a club issue. But we want to be the best. I’ll be available to help whenever I’m needed”.

Champions League target

What is the target in the Champions League? Is Xavi under pressure?

“I think Xavi already knows what pressure he is under. There is no obligation to win it tomorrow, but there is to compete. We will always want to win the Champions League, but his contract does not say that he has to win the Champions League”.

What are your thoughts on Lamine Yamal?

“He’s surprised us. He has his feet pretty much on the ground. He has a different kind of quality. He needs to be supported so that he continues to improve and that he has peace of mind. And that’s what will happen”.

Several rumoured contract extensions still haven’t been announced.

“We are working on them and there will be news on them soon. We’ll agree the new contracts”.

Is it true that João Félix is actually going to earn €400,000 (circa $430,000) even though LaLiga thinks his salary is €4 million (just under $4.3 million)?

“The salaries LaLiga attributes to players are sometimes different from what they actually earn. He has made a big effort to come here”.

Do you have an option to buy on João Cancelo?

“There is no option to buy on either Cancelo or João Félix”.

16-year-old Lamine Yamal made his Spain debut this week after impressing for Barcelona.
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16-year-old Lamine Yamal made his Spain debut this week after impressing for Barcelona. miguel angel molinaEFE

When will Vitor Roque join Barcelona?

When will Vitor Roque move to Barcelona?

“He could come in January, but the conditions will have to be assessed. And if he doesn’t come then, it’s because of something agreed during the negotiations and we’ll have to accept it”.

Did you get commission when Raphinha signed for Barça?

“The club have a compliance department. Everything that had to be sorted out at the time was sorted out”.

Lionel Messi return to Camp Nou played down

Did you talk to Lionel Messi about returning to Barcelona?

“Leo is a friend. I talk to him sometimes. Now less so, because he’s far away. We all wanted him to stay here two-and-a-half years ago and we would have liked to have him here now. When I think of Leo, I think of the best player in the history of the sport. He seems to be happy and enjoying himself. And that is the most important thing. My wish is for him to be happy”.