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The secret of Barcelona’s success. Xavi has the help of a miraculous program with artificial intelligence

Date: April 12, 2024 Time: 21:13:13

Barcelona coach Xavi’s contract expires next summer and the club’s management is ready not only to renew the agreement, but also to double his salary. According to Marca, the Catalan strategist will receive 8 million euros per year instead of the current 4 million. The Barça directors evaluated last year’s championship and the general evolution of the team: with Xavi, the Blaugranas played 94 games, won 59, tied 16 times and lost 19 games. This gives the manager an average points per game ratio across all competitions of 2.05. Which is much higher than that of his predecessor Ronald Koeman (1.67 points per game).

The coach attributes Barça’s evolution to giving him not only the final say in transfers, but also the opportunity to continue working with his team of assistants. Seven specialists worked with him at the Camp Nou and helped the coach during the Qatari stage of his career. Xavi especially values ​​the analysts David Prats, Tony Lobo and Sergio García: they are responsible for tactics and rely on data from the Kognia artificial intelligence software in the preparation process. It was launched in 2019 by former La Masia employee Maurici López-Felip, and is now one of Barça’s main weapons.

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The main inspiration behind the creation of Kognia is the director of the Barcelona academy.

In early summer 2022, Barcelona sporting director Mateu Alemany approached López-Felip to ask him to provide data on winger Ousmane Dembélé’s intensity in defence. Alemany asked how long this analysis would take and was very surprised with the answer: “Two minutes.” It seems that Kognia’s data satisfied the boss, and a few days later Dembélé renewed his contract with the club. Today Usman already plays for PSG and López-Felip’s creation continues to work for the benefit of the Catalans.

“I remember the match between Barcelona and Manchester United in the Europa League last season. Five days before the first match at the Camp Nou, the coaching staff asked us to analyze 12 United games with certain parameters,” Kognia’s creator told The Athletic. “Normally it takes about 300 hours of manual work, going through match after match and paying attention to the details that were asked of us. With our software it took us four hours.”

Xavi and legendary La Masia leader Joan Vila (left)

Photo: From Xavi’s personal archive

López-Felip said he was inspired to create artificial intelligence software with a scientific approach by Joan Vila, a key figure in the evolution of Barcelona philosophy over the years. Vila was one of the coordinators of La Masia when Johan Cruyff took charge of Barça back in 1988. Joan trained hundreds of young talents, including Javi. In 2011 he was appointed director of Barcelona’s methodology department, specialized in instilling certain tactical skills in young people. Vila left the club in 2018 due to differences with then-president Josep Bartomeu, who cut the department’s funding.

“The best coaches I have worked with professionally are Pep Guardiola and Luis Aragonés,” Xavi admitted in 2015. “But on an academic level I owe my development as a player and as a person to Joan Vila.”

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López-Felip met the La Masia legend in 2009 when he joined the club’s analytics department. Together they analyzed the effectiveness of the team’s players and helped significantly improve the play of Xavi, Carles Puyol and other Barça leaders. Analyzing the data took a long time and then López-Felip thought about creating a program that would not only speed up the process, but also generate ways to improve the game.

Xavi not only uses Kognia: he is also a co-investor in the company

In 2014, López-Felip, with the support of Barcelona, ​​founded an innovation center aimed at disseminating knowledge and conducting training courses for coaches on the methodology. After failing to implement his business idea through the club (Bartomeu refused to extend funding), he received a scholarship to the University of Connecticut, where he began developing Kognia. In 2018, with the help of Vila, the promoter presented his project to Xavi, who had just started his career as a coach.

Iker Casillas and Xavi are co-investors in Kognia

Photo: Carlos R. Álvarez/Getty Images

The program’s ability to analyze each player’s actions, finding pros and cons in the team’s and opponents’ play impressed Xavi so much that he became a co-investor in Kognia. Iker Casillas, Vila himself and former Barcelona presidential candidate Víctor Font also invested in the development and promotion of artificial intelligence. The company now defines Javi’s role within the company as an ambassador. Another of Kognia’s most famous clients is Unai Emery, who uses the software at Aston Villa.

Today, Kognia is also used by Watford, Swedish AIK and several European football associations who use the program to prepare for qualifying matches for Euro 2024 and the 2026 World Cup. “In recent years we have accumulated knowledge and tactical concepts from an individual and collective point of view and we have put them all into our artificial intelligence system. Do you want to know in which games your team’s defensive line was unbalanced throughout the Premier League last season? You can obtain this data in a matter of minutes,” López-Felip highlights the benefits of Kognia.

Thanks to Kognia, Xavi reviewed the team’s tactics during the season

“Tactics in football are becoming as complex as the chemical formula for splitting an atom,” famous goalscorer Jimmy Greaves said in the 1970s. After 50 years, analytics has reached a cosmic level. At first, Kognia experts focused on the events of the match: the number of shots and passes, offsides and other game actions. Gradually, this turned into tracking players’ movements using high-precision cameras installed in stadiums: Kognia algorithms apply around 300 tactical situations and recommend the best behavioral model in each of them.

Xavi had a good reason to insist on the transfer of Gundogan

Photo: Eric Alonso/Getty Images

“We observe all the players and analyze their tactics,” says López-Felip. — For example, this may be related to the positions of soccer players. Does the center fit into the defensive line? Does it cover a specific space? Does it put pressure on the attacker? How well is it positioned in the area? We also determine if the lines are balanced, if there is depth and width, or how the team adapts when the ball is lost.”

Thanks to Kognia, Xavi revised the team’s tactics as the season progressed. The software told the coach that the opponents were putting a lot of pressure on Barça’s technical central defenders and that it was becoming more difficult to launch attacks. In this sense, the coach placed emphasis on wing play and, starting in January 2023, he moved to a system with four midfielders. One of them is used as a “false” left winger, for greater control of the ball. This tactic made the team more flexible, but the coach was not happy with the use of free space. This is the reason why Barça insisted so much on signing Ilkay Gundogan this summer.

* This website provides news content gathered from various internet sources. It is crucial to understand that we are not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, or reliability of the information presented Read More

Puck Henry
Puck Henry
Puck Henry is an editor for ePrimefeed covering all types of news.
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