Manchester City target Barcelona midfielder Xavi as New York City FC's marquee signing
Manchester City are exploring the possibility of making Barcelona star Xavi the marquee signing for the club’s Major League Soccer franchise in the United States.
New York City will not play in the MLS until 2015, by which time Xavi will be aged 35 and will have one year remaining on his Barcelona contract.
Having spent his entire career at Barca, Xavi has spoken of retiring at the Nou Camp but last week suggested that he could see out his playing days elsewhere by saying: “Being tied to Barcelona is a privilege, but I don’t know what will happen in the future.”
That sparked speculation in Spain and America that former Barcelona striker Thierry Henry is trying to entice Xavi to join him at New York Red Bulls.
However, it is understood that Manchester City chiefs are showing strong interest in Xavi, as they formulate plans over how their New York club can make the biggest possible impact in the MLS.
City director of football Txiki Begiristain and chief executive Ferran Soriano both know Xavi well from their days at Barcelona, and see the Spaniard as the perfect face of their new team.
Xavi is thought to earn a salary of around £7 million after tax and he would most likely be granted a free transfer by Barcelona next year if he expressed a desire to move to America.
City have invested more than £300million into their MLS franchise and New York City will have the biggest budget in the American game.
MLS clubs can sign three designated players outside the salary cap and Xavi would represent a huge commercial draw and encourage Barcelona fans in New York to support the new club.
Begiristain and Soriano insist that New York City manager Jason Kreis will choose which players he signs, but admit that they must fit the style Xavi has helped to imprint on Barcelona and that Manuel Pellegrini has attempted to recreate in Manchester.
“We have a philosophy that we want to play, that we like and the people like, and after that, we sign the coach,” Begiristain said. “After that, he is free.”
Soriano said: “These are broad concepts, but very strong. We would never choose a manager, whether it is Manuel Pellegrini in Manchester or Jason here, that would not believe in those pillars. On those pillars, he can build whatever he wants.”
Claudio Reyna, the former City midfielder who is sporting director for New York City, has confirmed that he and Kreis have already started work on trying to lure star names.
“We have to be very aggressive and active in an offensive mode with player recruitment and the player search,” Reyna said. “Our approach, with Jason and I, is to go find the players we want to fit into how he wants to build the team.
“And not just the right people that are important on the field, but probably more important off the field. Toronto did a great job bringing Michael Bradley back. He’s the right guy, a top professional. Those are the kind of people we’re looking for.
“The clock is ticking and we’re looking now. We have 36 scouts within City Football Group and we started to speak with them last year already, started to make contact with them. It’s a lot of fun, to be honest.
"I get to travel and watch games and meet with players and their representatives. Every week there’s a new name being thrown at us.”
On player recruitment, Kreis, who is the third-highest scorer in MLS history and previously managed Real Salt Lake, added: “I’m quite certain that New York City FC will sign three designated players.
"I’m also quite certain that those players will be extremely well vetted, researched, talked to in order to make sure they’re not only the right player for this team but the right person.
“We have the ability to go out and find new players for this league, new creative, attacking-type players that fit in to the City way of playing. I think we have a singular opportunity and almost a responsibility to go out and find new players to bring in to bolster the league a little bit.”
Kreis is likely to visit Barcelona as part of a six-month stint when he will immerse himself in Manchester City and European football as preparation for the New York City job.