The 2021/22 season for FC Barcelona has not been up to their usual standards. The Blaugrana are currently 9th in LaLiga, having won only four of their first twelve games. This season, they have looked all over the place. Not only are they in a financial crisis off the pitch, but on the pitch, Ronald Koeman’s tactics have not been upto Barça’s standards, and both players and fans have been waiting for the club to sack him.
Last month, Joan Laporta, the current Barça president, finally decided to sack Koeman after a lacklustre performance in a 1-0 loss to Rayo Vallecano, which followed an abysmal 1-2 home defeat to Real Madrid in El Clásico.
On Saturday, the club announced Xavi Hernández as their new manager, thus ending his six-year spell as a player and then the manager of Qatar Stars League club Al Sadd.
Xavi, who is a product of Barça’s famed youth academy La Masia, played for Barcelona’s first team for 17 years — from 1998 to 2015. He has now been appointed as their manager until 2024.
On Monday, the ex-midfielder was presented to thousands of fans at the Camp Nou alongside Joan Laporta.
An emotional return
In his presentation at the Camp Nou, Xavi stated, “Thank you all. I don’t want to get emotional but I am, I feel goosebumps.” Xavi, who embodies the Barcelona philosophy through and through, made sure the fans knew that he came prepared and still had the Barça DNA in him.
Xavi’s managerial move to Barcelona was confirmed after his childhood club paid his release clause to his ex-employers, Al Sadd.
In his stint as a player, Xavi played for Barça for 17 years, making 767 appearances and winning 25 major trophies, which included four Champions Leagues and eight LaLiga titles.
During his presentation, Xavi made sure that the fans understood that he was aware of the club’s history and wanted to carry forward the heritage of the club, and that he would meet their expectations.
“This is the biggest club in the world and I’m going to work hard to reach your expectations. Barcelona can’t accept a draw or a defeat. We have to win all the games,” Xavi said.
Xavi also posted an emotional message on his Instagram account:
Xavi: The coach
After leaving Barcelona in 2015, Xavi joined Al Sadd as a player, eventually becoming their manager in 2019. In his stint as manager, the club played 102 matches, of which they won 67, drew 17 and lost 18. Xavi’s team had an xG of 2.77 per game and averaged 2.19 points per match, which is pretty much a guaranteed win.
During the 2020/21 season, Xavi’s Al Sadd managed to win the league by going unbeaten in their 22 games, winning 19 and drawing 3. His team also had the most goals scored (77) and least goals conceded (14) throughout the season, and this was already Xavi’s 6th trophy as manager of the Qatari side.
In their famous unbeaten season, the Barça style of play was very visible in Al Sadd’s football. The Xavi team focused on building possession from the back, keeping the ball on the ground and picking the right passes to move forward, and just like prime Barça, they applied tight pressure immediately after they lost control of the ball.
Even on the pitch, Xavi was a very vocal leader and a mainstay in the Barcelona side that introduced tiki-taka football to the world. One of the main reasons I feel that his appointment will be great for Barça is because I believe he will bring back the club’s real identity on the pitch that has been missing for a few years now. He is well renowned at the club and will be respected by each and every member of the team and the backroom staff.
Also, in the current squad, there are several players that have played with Xavi over the years, including the likes of Gerard Piqué, Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets. The senior players at Barça have been going through a tough time off the field due to the club’s financial crisis, but with the appointment of Xavi these players will know what to expect, and Xavi could use these players as pillars to spread his message and playing style across all their teammates and, most importantly, the youngsters.