Xavi Says Exciting Barcelona Teen Has Chance To Replace Pique

Xavi Hernandez

Getty Xavi is backing Araujo

Xavi is set to wave goodbye to Barcelona center-back Gerard Pique who has sensationally decided to retire from professional football midway through the 2022-23 season.

Thoughts have already turned to who could replace the club legend. Athletic center-back Inigo Martinez has already been touted as one option but may not arrive until the summer when his contract expires and he is a free agent.

Xavi could therefore look towards the club’s promising youngsters for the rest of the current campaign. Teenage center-back Chadi Riad has already caught Xavi’s eye and been called up to first-team training this season.

The Barcelona coach spoke about Riad again before Saturday’s La Liga clash with Almeria and admitted the defender is a player he likes and could be given more opportunities.

“Chadi is very physical, has great distribution. He’s player we like that’s why he’s on the list,” he said. “There are various options we could bring in. Chadi is a player who definitely could have a present and future for the club.”

Chadi has been included in Barcelona’s matchday squad for the visit of Almeria. The game will be Pique’s last at the Camp Nou before he hangs up his boots and promises to be an emotional affair.

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Will Barcelona Sign a Replacement in January?

Xavi was also asked if Barcelona would look to dip into the transfer market in January to sign a replacement but insisted no decision has yet been made on that front.

“We’ll see. We know now he is leaving,” he told reporters. “Yes, maybe. We have to look at what we can do. We will have a meeting after the match against Osasuna to plan a little bit.”

The Barcelona boss does have plenty of options but has seen injuries disrupt his backline all season long. Ronald Araujo is currently sidelined after undergoing surgery, while Eric Garcia, Jules Kounde, and Andreas Christensen have also been out at various points so far in the 2022-23 campaignn.

All three players, and Araujo if he recovers in time, are expected to play at the 2022 World Cup which means fatigue may be a factor in the second half of the season and may be an issue when it comes to the January transfer window.

Eric and Christensen Return From Injury

Meanwhile, Pique will be hoping to start on Saturday when Almeria arrive at the Camp Nou. The defender does face competition for his place, particularly as Eric Garcia and Andreas Christensen have both been passed fit for the match.

Barcelona head into the game just one point behind Real Madrid in the table in Spain and will be keen to maintain the pressure on the defending champions before the World Cup break.

The Catalans have been superb defensively in the Spanish top flight and have the best record in the division. Xavi’s side have conceded just four goals in 12 matches and have kept 10 clean sheets along the way.

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