Xavi Hernandez: Is Third Time the Charm?
Who is Xavi, the Barcelona legend?
When you think of some of the greatest players to have donned the Barcelona jersey, Xavi Hernandez is a player that makes the cut undoubtedly. Having been one of the players with the most number of appearances for the club, the man has led the team as captain to have won the treble twice. You know the treble? The title given to the team that wins a domestic cup, domestic league and a European cup. In simpler terms, it's a guaranteed being an A-hole card for salty fans to tease you if their teams win it. Validity: till your team doesn't win it.
As we were saying, Xavi’s term and captaincy in Barcelona has been something that should be written in golden ink in the books of history. Nicknamed the “Maquina” (the Machine), Xavi is definitely stirring up excitement about his potential as a coach after his term as a player under the ever-so-brilliant team.
What made Barcelona finally sack the ones before him?
Barcelona sacked two managers namely Quique Setien and Ronald Koeman before Xavi's return, all in a very short time. Ernesto Valverde was sacked by Barcelona too but the man was the first team coach for a fairly long time and has some accomplishments under his belt as coach, so we won't take a dig at him here.
Talking about Setien, Barcelona had been a disaster when he joined and sadly, not much changed when he left too. The only thing carrying the team was the presence of icons like Luis Suarez, Lionel Messi, and Antoine Griezmann, all of whom again were not at their best performance under the said coach. Quique, was not Barcelona’s first choice as manager after the sacking of Ernesto Valverde but they had to make do as he was one of only ones available.
They tried to contact Xavi initially too but the former Al Sadd coach was very displeased with the presidency and the board of the team at the time (as was the rest of the football world, quite frankly but that's a thing to talk about later). Ronald Koeman was also apprehensive to join the team at the time, leaving Quique as the only option. Not a very brilliant decision, might we add, if you fast-forward six months to the humiliating 8-2 defeat against Bayern in the Champions League. 8-2 was the last straw in sacking Setien who led Barcelona to a trophyless season.
Another disaster came disguised under the name of Ronald Koeman. Although we believe that Koeman was dedicated and committed to Barcelona but was that enough? Clearly not. He made some rash decisions, most of which were seen to be irrational. Case in point: The buying and selling of some players who were integral to Barcelona's core. The last straw for Koeman should have been his third El Clasico defeat in a row but the management waited for one more humiliation against Rayo. It’s as if they had started to enjoy the footage at this point. Bringing in a new manager at this point had become a need more than a want.
Where is(n't) Barcelona falling short?
As a team, Barcelona had to go through major changes because of their previous and current administration and the reshuffling of their team and again. Stability was one aspect Barcelona took a huge hit in. The team lost many great players like Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Antoine Griezmann this year itself. As relieving as it is to see Messi go somewhere where he can end his career on a high with a Champion’s League trophy, it was also unnerving to witness him leave the team, his legacy, his home. Barcelona lost a lot of gems this year but where it might make up for that is Xavi will have the freedom to train the youngsters in a form that will be best for the team.
One more area where Barcelona faces trouble, like most of us outgoing teenagers, is finances. The club is in huge debt, $1.57 billion to be precise. How would you have the finances to build a world class team and keep sacking managers every other day if your account balance is in negative! So instead of trying to find a sugar daddy for the team, Barcelona found its way to Xavi. FINALLY.
Is Xavi the Handy Manny of Barcelona?
Xavi is probably Barcelona's best bet to pull out from these prolonged series of defeats. He has shown an exemplary performance in Al Sadd even though he became a coach in 2019, immediately after retiring as a player. Al Sadd currently looks unbeatable and is the top team in Qatar (Barca when, no not in Qatar) under his coaching. The statistics and numbers prove themselves.
An additional benefit that comes with Xavi is his age and the fact that he is a young manager. Experience matters yes but the fact that he knows the team having been a part of it recently is something that is far more superior. Xavi knows the team inside out, he knows the players as well as the management before him. He has himself played with some of the existing players and hence, knows which player needs mending and in what form.
Moreover, Xavi has already made a bold yet much-needed move since his return which was bringing back another experienced player, Dani Alves to the team. This was a move that shocked us yet again since it wasn't anticipated after the rejection of the same move in the last few years.
With the buying of Kun Aguero, Barcelona made another unpredictable mistake as the 33-year-old has been out due to an injury and now is suffering from cardiac Arrhythmia. The experience the team was hoping to find in him again takes a big hit as the team now looks towards Alves to fit in that role.Xavi will also bring back the team to the ‘tiki-taka’ playing style and what naturally works best for the team, that the club had lost under Setien and Koeman.
The tight purse strings of the club have now forced them to shift focus on the young talented players coming out of La Masia (their player academy) whom Xavi can train according to the team’s needs and style. Xavi himself being a La Masia graduate stands testament to talent produced in the academy. La Masia players don't put a strain on the financial constraints of the club and provide the team with much-needed talent with just a little training. The strategy adopted by Real Madrid of getting new and young players in the squad is something that has worked and Xavi is most likely to draw inspiration from that.
As someone who helped set the standard of Barcelona as a legendary team during his glory days, he will be supported and given the time to succeed by the supporters of the team. He won't make the same mistakes as Koeman did with his egoistic statements and public missteps and so there is hope that Xavi can take the team to a place where it once stood.
So yes, Xavi should be the third time charm that worked.