Doha (AFP) – Xavi Hernandez said he is open to being Qatar’s coach when it hosts the 2022 World Cup and rebuffed critics by claiming he is “very proud” to be in Doha.

The Barcelona great, 37, who currently plays in Qatar for Al Sadd, told AFP he is “90 percent” certain to retire at the end of this season and then launch his coaching career.

And the World Cup winner says he wants to coach on the biggest stage.

Asked if that mean being Qatar’s coach in 2022, he replied: “Why not? I think it would be nice to be a coach here for the national team.

“We will see. I need experience, I need staff, I need everything but at least I know the Qatari players, I know the environment here.”

The Spanish 2010 World Cup winner added: “I am here to help them to be better, to compete well at this World Cup.

“I think my aim is to be the head coach.”

He added that he would initially like to get involved coaching Qatar’s under-19s or under-23s before working with the senior team.

And he advocated a playing style similar to that of Barcelona’s famous passing game, of which Xavi — who won eight La Liga and four Champions’ League titles with the Catalans — was an integral part.

“I think that we must follow this legacy of Johann Cruyff, of Van Rijkaard, Van Gaal, Pep Guardiola, not only in Barcelona but also in the world of football. 

“Everybody enjoyed our style, in Barcelona and the national team. I think we have to follow this way.”

He added that Barcelona and Spain’s style of play was “the highest point” of his career.

Xavi expects to call time on his exceptional career and begin coaching courses in Madrid next year.

“I feel a little bit sad, I want to play more, until 60 or 70 but I cannot,” he said.

“It’s a pity. But I started to think as a coach two or three years ago.”

– Qatar pride –

Qatar failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, which means that in 2022 they will become the first nation to host football’s biggest tournament without ever playing in a finals since Italy in 1934.

They had three coaches during the qualification period and currently Xavi’s fellow Spaniard Felix Sanchez is in temporary charge.

Xavi — who also said it was his “dream” to coach Barcelona — has been in Qatar since 2015.

He signed a two-year contract, extended by 12 months, which ends in 2018.

Qatar has come under intense scrutiny over corruption and labour abuse allegations since winning the right to host the World Cup, charges it denies.

That criticism has heightened during the ongoing Gulf political crisis, which has seen Qatar isolated by neighbouring countries, and fresh calls for FIFA to take the tournament from Doha.

As Qatar football’s biggest star, Xavi, who is already an ambassador for the 2022 tournament, has also found himself criticised for playing in the emirate.

But Xavi says he is unconcerned.

“People don’t know the country, the work they are doing here,” he said.

“I would invite them to come here and then they can see — but I am very proud to be here.”

He added: “I think they (Qatar) are doing well. I don’t care about the criticism.”