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Barcelona Hires Hansi Flick as Coach after Official Departure of Xavi

Barcelona has replaced Xavi Hernández with former Bayern Munich coach Hansi Flick, who commanded the German team’s 8-2 rout of the Catalan club four years ago.

Flick signed a two-year contract with Barcelona, which announced his hiring Wednesday just minutes after confirming that it reached an agreement to sever ties with Xavi.

It’s the 59-year-old Flick’s first coaching job since being fired by Germany in September last year. He previously spent two years at Bayern, winning the Champions League and back-to-back German league titles.

Flick, who was Bayern’s coach for the 8-2 victory in the Champions League quarterfinals in 2020, signed the contract at Barcelona’s offices accompanied by team officials including sporting director Deco.

Barcelona said it chose “a man well-known for his teams’ high pressing, intense and daring style of play which has brought him great success at club level and international level, winning pretty much all there is to win in the world of football.”

Xavi, a midfield great as a player at Barcelona, left after the team finished a distant second to fierce rival Real Madrid in the Spanish league this season.

Barcelona’s head coach Xavi Hernandez walks on the touchline during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between Barcelona and Real Sociedad at the Olimpic Lluis Companys stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Monday, May 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Joan Monfort)

Xavi coached his last game with the Catalan club on Sunday in the Spanish league, a 2-1 win at Sevilla.

His departure came a month after he had walked back a previous decision he made in January to leave the club this summer. In April, he said that he had changed his mind because the team was playing better and he believed it could bounce back from a trophy-less season.

Barcelona president Joan Laporta had publicly celebrated Xavi’s commitment to stay at that time. But last week the president was reportedly unhappy when the head coach spoke openly about how the club’s poor finances would impede it from competing with Real Madrid.

Flick is one of just two European managers who can boast the sextuple of trophies in the same calendar year.

He will be reunited with former Bayern striker Robert Lewandowski, who is now with the Catalan club.

Flick will be the third German coach in Barcelona’s history, following Hennes Weisweiler and Udo Lattek.

Flick’s Bayern won the Champions League title against Paris Saint-Germain after the 8-2 trouncing of Barcelona. It was part of a stunning streak of titles in the depths of the pandemic which also included the Bundesliga, German Cup and Club World Cup.

Until now, that two-year stint at Bayern was Flick’s only career job with a top-division club. Before that he was best known as an assistant coach on the World Cup-winning German team of 2014.

Flick left Bayern for the German national team in 2021 but was fired last year after overseeing a 4-1 friendly loss to Japan that was Germany’s sixth game in a row without a win. Germany’s group-stage exit at the World Cup in 2022 was also a major factor and fans were concerned his management style had alienated key players.

A documentary following the German team at 2022 included scenes of Flick trying to inspire positive thinking among players who seemed bored or distant. One scene featured the squad being shown video of geese in an exercise apparently meant to improve teamwork, prompting widespread mockery from German fans.

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By TALES AZZONI AP Sports Writer

AP Sports Writers Steve Douglas and James Ellingworth contributed to this report.

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